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SOCSCI 460A / PP 297E
Voting Rights Policy & The Law

Fall 2019, Thursday, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Luskin Public Affairs 4320B


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). A collaborative course taught from the perspective of social science research, and civil rights and voting rights, the course is taught by Professor Matt Barreto and nationally preeminent civil and voting rights attorney Mr. Chad Dunn. In addition, different faculty from across campus, and 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. Note: the course will meet in-person on most Thursdays, and have directed study research in between on days we don't meet. The first meeting will be Thursday September 26th

The course will not only cover the theoretical factors involved in a voting rights lawsuit, such as the history of discrimination against a minority group in the areas of employment, education, housing, and political representation, but will also give students the chance to participate in a potential VRA lawsuit. Students would learn, and eventually implement themselves, an in-depth study of the methodology 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 file a lawsuit against a jurisdiction that is out of compliance with the California or Federal voting rights act and the research they did in this course will potentially be used as evidence in the challenge.

Tentative Description of 3-quarter course (Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020)

The course would proceed as follows:

Fall quarter: students are divided into teams to research various jurisdictions in California 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 be considered for a lawsuit.

Over the winter break, Barreto and Dunn would review all evidence and select two to three jurisdictions in which to potentially file a voting rights lawsuit.

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 lawsuit on 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 lawsuit(s) proceed, students would work on all aspects of the voting rights cases with Barreto and Dunn, including preparation of expert research reports, legal argumentation and filings, preparation of expert depositions and other matters related to the case.  In addition to working directly on the lawsuit, the workshop 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.

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.

September 26, 2019

October 10, 2019

October 17, 2019

October 24, 2019

November 5, 2019

November 14, 2019

More Readings:

February 28, 2020