April 13, 2009

Edward Blum Response to Ellen Katz on Obama's Election and the Constitutionality of Section 5

On March 26, I featured this guest post from Ellen Katz. Edward Blum sends along this response:

    Ellen Katz's post to this blog last week, "The Misguided Effort to Explain Obama to the Court--or--Why Obama Really Matters and What the Court Should do About It" asserts that "John Kerry did significantly better among white voters in covered states in 2004 than did Obama last year." This is not fully accurate.

    First, Prof. Katz asserts that no state wholly covered by the VRA voted for Obama; this is incorrect. Virginia supported Obama making him the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state since 1964. Virginia is usually identified as a state wholly covered by Section 5 even though several Virginia counties and independent cities have bailed out from under Section 5. The value of Katz's observation is further undermined by Obama's victory in North Carolina. More importantly, as to whether Obama received less of the white vote than did John Kerry in states subject to Section 5, here are the results:

    Three states (Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi) saw the share of the white vote going to the Democratic presidential candidate decline from 2004 to 2008. In Florida and Georgia, Barack Obama and John Kerry received the same shares of the white vote. In North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, Obama's share of the white vote exceeded that received by Kerry.

    The declines were 3 percentage points (Mississippi), 7 points (Alabama) and 10 points (Louisiana). In terms of absolute numbers, these declines are more than offset by the gains of 8 percentage points in North Carolina, 7 in Virginia, 4 in South Carolina and 1 in Texas. South Carolina has a larger white electorate than Mississippi, Virginia has a larger white electorate than Alabama, and North Carolina's white electorate is several times larger than that of Mississippi. See this chart.

Posted by Rick Hasen at April 13, 2009 12:55 PM