Monthly Archives: February 2007

“Voting Rights and City-County Consolidations”

Kristen Clarke has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming Houston Law Review). Here is the abstract:

    This article confronts a very timely question: whether city-county consolidation, an increasingly popular form of regionalization, dilutes minority voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Cities and counties throughout the country have recently merged or are now considering merging their respective governing bodies. Likewise, a significant body of scholarship has emerged in the last several years touting city-county consolidations as a tool to help distressed and struggling cities. Indeed, consolidations have tremendous appeal in that this reorganization may afford struggling urban areas the opportunity to tap into desperately needed social capital and fiscal resources that are often underutilized and readily available. Often, though not always, when governments consolidate their functions and power, there are considerable gains and significant losses that are evident along racial lines. This Article explores the extent of those losses by focusing on the impact of consolidation on racial minorities and other insular communities impacted by this type of government reform and reorganization. Specifically, I argue that consolidation must be undertaken with more exacting scrutiny in areas where there are stark racial and demographic differences between respective urban and suburban communities. I consider the impact that city-county consolidations have on the voting power of racial minorities while examining the effect that such reorganizational shifts have on the political equality and self-determination of these groups. I illustrate some of the problems with reorganization through an empirical analysis of a recent large-scale city-county consolidation. Further, I offer a proposal on how the Voting Rights Act might be used as a tool to challenge regionalization efforts that impair political equality. Finally, I suggest alternative tools and governance models that governments might adopt in order to avoid or alleviate any resulting impact on minority voting strength.

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