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Bunche Hall 3345

PP 234A / LAW 832 / CCAS 191
Voting Rights Policy & The Law

Fall 2023, Thursday, 3:20pm - 5:20pm, Law School 1420


Matt A. Barreto (bio) Chad W. Dunn (bio)

Course Description:

This year-long course exposes students to voting rights act theory, case law, history, research and then implementation and is part of the UCLA Voting Rights Project (VRP). This course is offered concurrently with LAW 832, and Law, Public Policy and Social Science students will meet together, in-person every Thursday in Law 1420. On Tuesdays, we will meet through a combination of in-person and possibly on Zoom and those sessions will sometimes be focused on legal casework and only Law students will be required to meet Tuesdays, and other times we will use the Tuesday meeting for more in-depth technical and hands-on training, especially of mapping software for ALL STUDENTS. All students are welcome to attend all sessions, but Thursday class sessions are required for everyone. This collaborative course is taught from the perspective of social science research, and civil rights and voting rights, and co-taught by Professor Matt Barreto (Political Science & Chicana/o Studies) and nationally preeminent civil and voting rights attorney Mr. Chad Dunn (Luskin Public Affairs & School of Law). In addition, different experts from across the country will participate as "guest experts" to provide their perspective on how to study, research and document various aspects related to voting rights.

The course will cover the theoretical factors involved in a voting rights lawsuit, such as the history of discrimination against minority groups in the areas of employment, education, housing, and political representation, and will also give students the chance to participate in a potential real-world VRA lawsuit. Students will learn, and eventually implement themselves, an in-depth study of the legal, historical and statistical approach to document the presence or absence vote dilution or vote denial in different jurisdictions in California, or across the country. Finally, by the Spring quarter, students will help prepare a complaint that could inform a future lawsuit against a jurisdiction, if they are out of compliance with a State or Federal voting rights act, and the research students conduct in this course will serve as important teaching and learning opportunities to understand voting rights from both a legal and social science perspective.

Tentative Description of year-long course (Fall 2023, Winter/Spring 2024)

The course would proceed as follows:

Fall quarter: students are divided into teams to research various jurisdictions across the country that may or may not be vulnerable to a voting rights challenge. Students would research the history of discrimination, how minority candidates have fared when running for office, and the current political and social climate in the jurisdiction. At the conclusion of the Fall quarter each student would give a presentation as to why, or why not the jurisdiction they are studying should receive consideration for future in-depth investigation.

Over the winter break, Barreto and Dunn will review all evidence and select two to three jurisdictions in which to follow up on in the Winter/Spring in clinical education.

Winter quarter: students would learn in more detail the legal theory relevant to bringing a successful voting rights challenge, as well as how to assemble and present the social science evidence.  Students would be divided into teams to work on different aspects of a potential complaint against the jurisdictions selected by Barreto and Dunn over the break. Instruction would focus on the practical aspects of a voting rights lawsuit, and students would read case law on prior VRA decisions as well as read and review the accompanying expert reports that were filed.

Spring quarter: As the research and preparation for the class-project complaint(s) proceed, students would work on all aspects of the voting rights cases with Barreto and Dunn, including how-to examples of preparing expert research reports, legal argumentation and filings, preparation of expert depositions and other matters related to a hypothetical case.  In addition to working directly on the educational project, the clinic would continue with lectures and practicum on voting rights in general with presentations from outside experts including other faculty on campus, as well as experts in the field from off-campus in the Los Angeles area.

Note on Law students: The UCLA Law School operates on a 2-semester schedule, not a 3-quarter schedule. As such, Law students start about 4 weeks earlier in the Fall, and end about 5 weeks earlier in the Spring. To accomodate this, some sessions are ONLY for Law students, and the Spring semester is more of a workshop/clinic.

Course Materials & Readings

  • Grofman, Bernard, Lisa Handley and Richard Niemi. 1994. Minority Representation and the Quest for Voting Equality. Cambridge University Press.
  • Henderson, Ana (ed.) 2007. Voting Rights Act Reauthorization of 2006: Perspectives on Democracy, Participation, and Power. Berkeley Public Policy Press.
  • Chandler Davidson. 1992. Controversies in Minority Voting. The Brookings Institution Press.


Week 0

Week 1

More on Gingles in a local section 2 case:

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

  • November 2, 2023
  • Week 5 Lecture Slides
  • Midterm Check-in: Lay out the facts of the jurisdictions you are researching and potential for any VRA violations (2 minutes only! be concise!)
  • We will provide feedback and ideas, help you focus and narrow your inquiry
  • How-to: Downloading election result data by precinct
  • Example from LA County: Election Results
  • Look for: Statement of Votes Cast
  • Example Excel sheet Basic regression in Excel
    • Pro Tip: Make sure the Data Analysis ToolPak is loaded in MS Excel (instructions here)
  • Link to Ford County, Kansas: Election Office
  • 2020 VAP data by precinct (at Table P4. Hispanic or Latino by Race, 18 and older for 2020 PL 94-171
  • 2010 VAP data by precinct (at Table P4. Hispanic or Latino by Race, 18 and older for 2010 PL 94-171
  • From the left hand screen: Click on Filter > then Click on Geography >
    • Under Geography, scroll down to All Geographies > then choose Voting District > then choose State > then choose County >
    • Select first box at top: [ ] All Voting Districts within...
    • When data table appears, to download, first click on the Transpose icon, data will shift, and then click Excel icon

Week 6

More Readings:

Week 7

Week 8

  • November 23, 2023

Week 9

Week 10

  • December 7, 2023
  • In-class work session
  • Prof. Barreto and Prof. Dunn will help with final pieces of your complaint 
FINALS WEEK, 2023 - Complaints due via email by Dec 15


Week 1  (Jan 18)

  • Reviewing the Senate Factors

Week 2  (Jan 26)

  • Updates from the research teams
  • Next steps on researching your jurisdiction

Week 3  (Feb 2)

  • Steps in Civil Rights Litigation

Week 4 - Work in-class with your teams (Feb 9)

  • VRP lawyers will be present for meetings
  • Updates from the research teams
  • Next steps on researching your jurisdiction

Week 5 (Feb 16)

  • Going in-depth on Racially Polarized Voting (RPV)
  • VRP data scientist, Mr. Michael Rios, guest lecture
  • Week 5 Lecture Slides

Week 6 (Feb 23)

Week 7 (Mar 2)

  • Updates from the research teams
  • Any particular road blocks in your case
  • Specific items you need for your complaint
  • Storytelling - Bringing the case to life

Week 8  (Mar 9)

  • Arlington Heights and Intent
  • Week 8 lecture slides

Week 9  (Mar 16)

  • Final ESRI map session, exporting your maps and metrics
  • Guest lecture: Dr. Tye Rush, Senior Fellow, UCLA VRP
  • (in class demonstration)


  • Final presentations from each team
  • Present your case to the class
  • Demonstration / illustrative maps
  • Gingles Factors
  • Senator Factors
  • Any Arlington Heights factors?

Additional readings and information