UW School of Law
US DOJ Civil Rights Division
Election Law Blog
||101 Gowen Hall, Box 353530
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3530
LAW E 558: Voting Rights Research and the Law
Mon & Weds, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm, Gates Hall 441
Professor: Matt A. Barreto
Office: Gowen 148
Office Hours: By appt.
This course will tackle some of the most pressing legal questions in our participatory democracy, specifically voting rights, and represents a substantial area of civil rights and Constitutional Law that students may wish to pursue following the completion of their degree. While the United States often boasts of its extensive franchise, the right to vote for all citizens has had a slow evolution in our country. In this course we will address two primary topics both related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its application today: (1) redistricting and minority representation; and (2) the protection or suppression of the right to vote. Students will read and discuss primary case law, theoretical and empirical research in law review journals, and evidence-based research in relevant legal and political science journals all related to voting rights and the law.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula (Section 4b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which put a hold on Section 5 administrative review in covered jurisdictions. As a result, many states and counties have aggressively moved forward with voting plans that were previously considered to be unlawful. We will spend time reviewing the Shelby County decision, and we will also closely review current challenges to voting rights and contribute to an existing database of cities, counties and states that may have voting rights issues that warrant closer scrutiny. The course will conclude with students each filing a mock brief either on behalf of voting rights plaintiffs which will include the necessary legal arguments and case review, as well as laying out the necessary data, research and empirical findings to support the case. Final paper and final presentations will summarize the results of their research findings on their voting rights case.
Additional Course Readings
- Chandler Davidson. 1992. "The Voting Rights Act: A Brief History." In Controversies in Minority Voting. The Brookings Institution Press.
- Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder et. al. Brief for Petitioner
- Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights: Shelby County Reference Materials
- 3 J.L. & Pol. 295 (1986-1987) Racial Polarization in Vote Dilution Cases under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act: The Impact of Thornburg v. Gingles; Jacobs, Paul W. II; O'Rourke, Timothy G.
- 36 Cath. U. L. Rev. 531 (1986-1987) Thornburg v. Gingles: The Supreme Court's New Test for Analyzing Minority Vote Dilution; Kosterlitz, Mary J.
- Vishal Agraharkar. 2011. The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say. Brennan Center for Justice.
- Frank v. Walker Voter ID decision, U.S. District Court, Wisconsin
- Applewhite v. Pennsylvania Voter ID decision, State Court of PA
- Barreto, Matt, Stephen Nuno, and Gabriel Sanchez. 2009. “The Disproportionate Impact of Voter-ID Requirements on the Electorate—New Evidence from Indiana." PS: Political Science & Politics. 42 (January)
- ACLU 2012. "Rates of Possession of Valid Photo Identification, and Public Knowledge of the Voter ID Law in Pennsylvania." Applewhite, et. al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania No. 330 MD 2012.
- Pamela S. Karlan. “Rules, Politics, and Policy.” Election Law Journal. March 2004, 3(1): 21-36.
- 89 Mich. L. Rev. 1038 (1990-1991) Voting Rights Act Section 2: Racially Polarized Voting and the Minority Community’s Representative of Choice; Shockley, Evenlyn
- Peyton McCrary. 1990. “Racially Polarized Voting in the South: Quantitative Evidence from the Courtroom” Social Science History, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 507-531
- Grofman, Bernad. 1991. “Multivariate methods and the analysis of racially polarized voting: pitfalls in the use of social science by the courts” Social Science Quarterly, 72(2):826-833
- Grofman, Bernard and Matt Barreto. 2009. “A Reply to Zax’s (2002) Critique of Grofman and Migalski (1988): Double Equation Approaches to Ecological Inferences” Sociological Methods and Research. 37 (May).
Weekly Readings and Assignments
Mar 31 – Welcome and Introduction / Course Overview
Apr 2 – What is the Voting Rights Act? History and Purpose
Readings for today: Grofman, Ch 1; Davidson, Ch 1 (online)
Apr 7 – Section 2 of the VRA
Readings for today: Grofman, Ch 2; Ch 3
Apr 9 – More on Section 2
Readings for today: Henderson Ch 8 (Katz); Ch 1 (Grose)
1-page summary of each chapter due at start of class April 16
Apr 14 – Section 5 of the VRA
Readings for today: Henderson Ch 3 (Fraga) and Ch 9 (Becker); Henderson book online
Apr 16 – gathering evidence: polarized voting, vote dilution, totality of circumstances
Readings for today: Grofman, Ch 4; Henderson Ch 5 (Abosch)
Apr 21 – Shelby Co Debate
Readings for today: Petitioners brief in Shelby Co. (online); and reference materials
Apr 23 – playing with voting rights data – bring laptops
In-class assignment: get dataset, merge, run basic analysis | Practice data here
Apr 28 – candidates of choice, more on Gingles
Readings for today: Paul Jacobs (online) and Mary Kosterlitz (online)
April 30 – reviewing the data, meet in teams
May 5 – voter ID laws – what does the law say?
Readings for today: The Cost of Voter ID Laws (online)
May 7 – voter ID laws – what does the data say?
Readings for today: The Disproportionate Impact of Voter-ID (online); Voter ID in Pennsylvania (Online)
May 12 – Section 203 – language minorities
Readings for today: Henderson Ch7 (Jones-Correa); Ch 11 (Ancheta); Ch 12 (Benson)
May 14 – Meet in teams to discuss your case
May 19 – critiquing polarized voting data
May 21 – creating districts to meet Gingles
Readings for today: Grofman Ch 5
Final presentations to follow