A belated hello

From your blogger (+ sidekick) for the week: we are Bruce Cain & Emily Zhang.  Bruce needs no introduction; he’s been around long enough that Re-apportionment was still a puzzle before his days.  Emily is one of Bruce’s many students and will start teaching in the fall at Berkeley Law.  

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New Survey on Negative Partisanship

Lots of interesting survey data to pour through from this piece in the Morning Consult about how the left and right perceive each other, but worth highlighting that “Democratic voters were most likely to overestimate the share of Republicans who believe abortion should be illegal nationwide without exceptions, while GOP voters were most likely to overshoot the share of Democrats who believe non-U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote.”

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“New York City’s Noncitizen Voting Law Is Struck Down”

I blogged last year about a legal challenge to a new extension of voting rights to non-citizens in two Vermont cities. A much more significant expansion took place last fall in New York City, which also faced a similar legal challenge. Per the New York Times, a state court recently concluded that the law violated the state constitution:

“The New York State Constitution expressly states that citizens meeting the age and residency requirements are entitled to register and vote in elections,” the judge wrote in his ruling. “There is no statutory ability for the City of New York to issue inconsistent laws permitting noncitizens to vote and exceed the authority granted to it by the New York State Constitution.”

The text of the court’s ruling is here.

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“State Institutions and Democratic Opportunity”

Appropos of the post from Bruce Cain and Emily Zhang about abortion politics at the state level and the more majoritarian options that exist at that level for policymaking, see this excellent recent article by Miriam Seifter that analyzes exactly this set of issues in some detail. Here’s the abstract: The burgeoning commentary on democratic decline in the United States focuses disproportionately on the national level. And seeing a national problem, reformers understandably seek to bolster democracy through large-scale federal solutions. Although their efforts hold popular appeal, they face strong institutional headwinds. As scholars have extensively documented, the Senate, the Electoral College, and the Supreme Court today are skewed against majority rule. Despair grows.

This Article urges legal scholars and reformers to turn their gaze to state-level institutions. State institutions, the Article shows, offer democratic opportunity that federal institutions do not. By design, they more readily give popular majorities a chance to rule on equal terms. Utilizing these opportunities can help stave off democratic decline in the short term and build a healthier democracy in the long term. But these opportunities are not guarantees, and they are in danger. State majoritarian institutions today face active threats from antidemocratic forces. These attacks—on state courts, ballot initiatives, and elected executives—have largely flown under radar or been noticed only in isolation. Their proponents, moreover, have sought to disguise them as good-governance reforms, exploiting the muddled dialogue surrounding democracy generally.

After highlighting the vital role of state institutions in American democracy, the Article provides a holistic account of the attacks they face today. It then offers a theoretical framework for distinguishing appropriate constraints on popular majorities from those that should be out of bounds— because, for example, they would install minority-party rule. The Article suggests steps that state courts, state officials, and organizers can take to protect state institutions. At the highest level, it shows how a richer theory and discourse surrounding state institutions can advance both state and national democracy.

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