A Debate over Race-Blind Redistricting

In an important earlier piece, Jowei Chen and Nick Stephanopoulus took advantage of modern technology to explore what a system of race-blind districting would generate in terms of the number of minority-opportunity election districts. Moon Duchin and Doug Spencer have now published a long critique of that earlier piece, and here is the abstract from their piece:

Capitalizing on recent advances in algorithmic sampling, The Race-Blind Future of Voting Rights explores the implications of the long-standing conservative dream of certified race neutrality in redistricting. Computers seem promising because they are excellent at not taking race into account—but computers only do what you tell them to do, and the rest of the authors’ apparatus for measuring minority electoral opportunity failed every check of robustness and numerical stability that we applied. How many opportunity districts are there in the current Texas state House plan? Their methods can give any answer from thirty-four to fifty-one, depending on invisible settings. But if we focus only on major technical flaws, we might miss the fundamental fact that race-blind districting would devastate minority political opportunity no matter how it is deployed, just due to the mathematics of single-member districts. In the end, the Article develops an extreme interpretation of a dubious idea proposed by Judge Easterbrook through an empirical study that is unsupported by the methods.

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