For the past several years, the Justice Department -- under Attorney General Janet Reno --has proposed an interpretation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which has now been rejected twice by the United States Supreme Court. In the government's view, those jurisdictions who have a history of discrimination are obliged by the law to create districts that have majorities of their minority members. In the court's view, the federal government's sole authority is to ensure that districting does not diminish the voting power of minorities. This opinion was recently affirmed in Reno v. Bossier (1/24/2000).
This dispute boils down to a disagreement over the interpretation of a few words in the Act which allow the Justice Department to give or deny 'preclearance' to some new districting plans. The legal issue is largely irrelevant to the Fair Vote 2K methodology, since this Section of the Act applies to specific jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. Although California has five such districts, their authority does not extend to the setting of electoral boundaries for the state legislature or congress, only for local agencies. Their plans are subject to preclearance by the Justice Department, but state-wide decennial districting is not. Nevertheless, the dispute is based on a political argument that does have some relevance to Fair Vote 2K.
The Justice Department's argument is that districting plans must create districts with a majority of minorities if that is reasonably possible. In a jurisdiction with 10 seats and 10% black population, there must be at least one district with a majority of blacks. If there is no such district, Justice argues, then the plan is prime-facia discriminatory. Not only are all other districting criteria irrelevant, but simple historic intent is sufficient grounds for proving a present "purpose" of discrimination. The Court has ruled against this interpretation in Bossier, as it did in the previous case of Beer v. United States.
The political issue bears on whether the Fair Vote 2K method, which specifically prohibits any consideration of race in drawing district boundaries, represents a commitment or a compromise of non-discriminatory voting rights. If the distortion of political power to benefit one race or one political interest is a worthy objective of districting, then Fair Vote 2K fails the test. It does not attempt to create majority-minority districts; nor to ensure the election of women; nor the representatives of water interests; nor any other "Community of Interest".
The FV2K procedure has only one basic objective: eliminate all political discrimination in the drawing of electoral boundaries. This includes any discrimination for or against blacks; for or against one political party or another; for or against any minority; for or against any specific candidate, incumbent or otherwise. Because it is based solely on the objective districting criteria of "one man, one vote" and geographic compactness, the FV2K procedure is the ultimate answer to the problem of discrimination in electoral districting.
Equality of representation and proximity are the only scientific, neutral criteria that will banish discrimination, both political and racial, from all candidate contests. Fair Vote 2K is the only vehicle for granting every citizen an equal opportunity to bring their interests to bear on the most important issues of the day.
Jump: Supreme Court Commentary