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Race, Ethnicity, and the Politics of City Redistricting

Minority-Opportunity Districts and the Election of Hispanics and Blacks to City Councils

Joshua G. Behr

Publication Year: 2004

Why do cities with similar minority populations vary greatly in the adoption of minority-opportunity districts and, by extension, differ in the number of elected Hispanic and black representatives? Through in-depth research of the districting processes of more than 100 cities, Race, Ethnicity, and the Politics of City Redistricting provides the first nationwide study of minority-opportunity districts at the local level. Joshua G. Behr explores the motives of the players involved, including incumbent legislators, Department of Justice officials, and organized interests, while investigating the roles that segregation, federal oversight, litigation, partisan elections, and resource disparity, among others, play in the election of Hispanics and blacks. Behr’s book documents—for both theorists and practitioners—the necessary conditions for enhancing minority-opportunity districts at the local level.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-

I would not have been able to bring the manuscript to its current state without the loving support, and patience, of my wife, Patti. To her I owe much. I thank my daughters, Abigail and Hannah, for reminding me daily of the preciousness of life. It is difficult to pinpoint whence the thesis of a book comes. Although I did not know it at the time, the genesis must be credited to Guillermo Gomez with whom I discussed affirmative government efforts to guarantee “a slice of the pie.” ...

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1. The City: Stepchild of Redistricting Controversies

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pp. 1-5

The 1990s were much celebrated for marked increases in the number of Hispanic and black elected officials at the state and national levels relative to previous decades. Explanations for these recent gains may include a myriad of idiosyncratic factors peculiar to particular elections, but most often cited is the central role of redistricting. There is a general consensus among perceptive public officials, political pundits, and academics alike that these gains are the result of a dynamic process that has been going on for several decades. ...

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2. Making the Connection: The Links among System Aptitude, Minority-Opportunity Districts, and the Election of Hispanics and Blacks

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pp. 7-14

An explanation for the election of Hispanics and blacks to city councils necessarily requires an understanding of the occurrence of minority-opportunity districts. At the most basic level, minority-opportunity districts are wholly dependent upon there being enough minority-group members residing in the city. It is for this reason that we begin our journey with a discussion that takes stock of the perhaps not so obvious, and deceptively simple, relationship between the size of the citywide minority population and the number of districts on a council. ...

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3. Players in the Politics of “Selling” Minority-Opportunity Districts: Self-Serving Incumbents, the Feds, and Organized Interests

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pp. 15-38

During the 1970s and 1980s many interest groups were effectively excluded from the details of redistricting due to limited access to technology. The 1990 round of redistricting saw digital data sets and powerful computer programs, able to aggregate block-level census data into district maps, made available widely to interested parties. ...

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4. The Design: Review of Hypothesized Relationships, Data Sources, and Measurement of Variables

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pp. 39-50

This chapter begins with a summary of the hypotheses developed in chapters 2 and 3 and an illustrative diagram of these relationships. These are followed by a discussion of the data sources. The latter half of this chapter provides a detailed account of the empirical measure for each variable. ...

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5. The Adoption of Hispanic and Black Minority-Opportunity Districts: Model Testing and Findings

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pp. 51-76

With the theoretical development complete and the specifics of variable measurement in hand, we are now ready to turn to testing the proposed model and presenting the findings. This chapter presents the tests of the first general hypothesis that posits the theoretical maximal proportion of minority-opportunity districts (system aptitude) as the primary explanation for the actual adoption of minority-opportunity districts. ...

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6. The Election of Hispanic and Black Descriptive Representatives: Model Testing and Findings

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pp. 77-96

We are now ready to test the second general relationship, the subsequent election of Hispanic and black council members from adopted Hispanic and black minority-opportunity districts, respectively.1 Also tested are three subhypotheses positing the variables resource disparity, partisan elections, and district population density as conditioning this second general relationship across the three elections subsequent to the 1990 round of redistricting. ...

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7. Conclusion: The Meaning of Meaningful Electoral Opportunity

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pp. 97-112

The intent of this work is both to contribute to an explanation for the creation of minority-opportunity districts at the municipal level and to posit an explanation of the election of minorities from these districts. Endeavoring to explain the adoption of opportunity districts includes theorizing about the role of contextual conditions such as the ability to sell such districts politically, the behavior of incumbents involved in drawing and/or approving such districts...

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Appendix A: Survey Design and Sample Questionnaires

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pp. 113-117

Contacting cities consisted of a four-pronged approach that included phone, letter, fax, and electronic mail. It was clear that the survey questions concerning the race of past council members would most likely be answered by a person in either the city clerk’s office or the mayor’s office, while other questions concerning past litigation would best be directed to the city’s law department. ...

Appendix B: Cities Surveyed

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pp. 119-120

Appendix C: Cases Cited

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pp. 121-122

Appendix D: Operational Definition of Region

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pp. 123-

Notes

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pp. 125-133

Bibliography

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pp. 135-150

AUTHOR INDEX

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pp. 151-154

SUBJECT INDEX

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pp. 155-158


E-ISBN-13: 9780791485491
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791459959
Print-ISBN-10: 0791459950

Page Count: 170
Illustrations: 23 tables, 5 figures
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in African American Studies
Series Editor Byline: John R. Howard

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Local elections -- United States.
  • Apportionment (Election law) -- United States.
  • Gerrymandering -- United States.
  • African American legislators.
  • Hispanic American legislators.
  • City council members -- United States.
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