What Has 25 Years of Racial Gerrymandering Doctrine Achieved?
9 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 229 (2018)
45 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 12 Nov 2018
Date Written: March 23, 2018
In 1993, Shaw v. Reno created a doctrine of racial gerrymandering that has now been in existence for 25 years. This Article examines the doctrine’s impact over that time—whether it has achieved the goals the Court set out for the doctrine in Shaw and whether it has had other consequences. This Article examines the doctrine’s impact through the lens of the place where the doctrine first took root and has been most heavily litigated over the last 25 years—North Carolina’s congressional districts. This Article also draws upon the existing empirical literature in its assessment of the doctrine’s impact. In doing so, this Article represents the first comprehensive assessment of the doctrine. Ultimately, the Article concludes that while more research could and should be done in this realm, racial gerrymandering doctrine does not appear to have achieved the goals the Court set out for it. In addition, the doctrine has likely had little additional impact other than to make districts more compact and cost state governments money for litigation and compliance. For these reasons, the Article concludes that the doctrine should be abandoned absent additional research documenting a systematically meaningful positive impact on American democracy.
Keywords: Shaw v. Reno, racial gerrymandering, constitutional law, equal protection, political gerrymandering, voting rights
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