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The Voting Rights Act and the Protection of Mexican American Electoral Participation Mexican Americans and Politics Lecture 10 February 9, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "The Voting Rights Act and the Protection of Mexican American Electoral Participation Mexican Americans and Politics Lecture 10 February 9, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Voting Rights Act and the Protection of Mexican American Electoral Participation Mexican Americans and Politics Lecture 10 February 9, 2006

2 Participation Not Simply the Result of Individual Initiative Institutions create barriers Few mass democracies with full, equal participation exist Not all barriers are malicious Should 16 and 17 year olds vote? How about 6 and 7 year olds? Electoral participation States set limits on voting Reasonable people can disagree on appropriate limits Barriers established primarily in the South to restrict Black voting (and less so in the Southwest to limit Mexican American voting) can only be seen as racially motivated

3 Voting in the United States: State Control to Federal Oversight Constitution: States regulate voting “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” – 15 th Amendment to the Constitution Nevertheless, states regulated voting with no federal oversight until 1965

4 Provisions of the 1965 VRA Applied to states in the South with gaps between white and black voter registration Prohibition of literacy tests Federal supervision of registration/voting Federal monitors could register voters Pre-clearance or rule/districting changes Judicial oversight transferred to federal court for the D.C. circuit Prohibition on “devices” to dilute Black votes Not part of VRA – 24 th Amendment to the Constitution (1964) eliminates poll tax

5 Impact Immediate and overwhelming Black voter participation increases from a few percent in some states to 60 percent almost overnight Blacks run for office and form a political party (that quickly dissolves) White leaders find new strategies to limit the impact of black votes Most important – at-large districting schemes

6 Extension to Mexican Americans and Other Latinos (1975) Little debate about Mexican American or Latino needs What discussion there was asserted similarities to Blacks No discussion of whether Mexican American experiences applied to other Latinos 1975 Extension Protections extended to Blacks in 1965 extended to “language minorities” One new provision – bilingual voting materials

7 Consequences Legal Federal monitoring of Latino registration and voting Legal/structural linkage of Mexican American and other Latino voting rights Political Expansion in the number of Mexican American and other Latino officeholders, But new officeholders haven’t kept up with population growth Increase in Latino share of national vote, but no big increase in share of eligible Latinos voting

8 Voting, By Group, Before 1980, turnout as a share of all adults, not U.S. citizen adults

9 Focus of VRA Shifted After 1965, Particularly in Remove barriers to Black participation 1970s Ensure that jurisdictions do not dilute the effect of minority voting 1975 Remove language as a barrier to participation 1982 Ensure that districts are drawn in areas of Black, Latino, Asian American or Native American concentration that will elect minority officeholders

10 Shift from Focus on Participation to Focus on Representation Both are important, but Mexican Americans need incentives to participation

11 Latino Elected Officials, change, +279%, overall population growth +291%

12 Long Term Impact of the VRA African American vote increased dramatically Descriptive representation up considerably New immigrants from covered groups immediately protected Foundation of white partisan shift and national Republican dominance after 1968

13 What Can Be Done to Return Focus to Mexican American/Latino Mobilization? 1. Non-citizen voting as a path to citizenship 2. Election day voter registration 3. Voting rights in U.S. national elections for residents of Puerto Rico

14 VRA Up for Renewal in 2007 Congressional debate will not focus on how to reduce barriers to Mexican American/Latino voting Instead: Question of constitutionality of majority-minority districts Burden placed on jurisdictions by bilingual election material requirement Whether the federal intervention in what was traditionally a state responsibility is still needed The Supreme Court that considers the constitutionality of whatever Congress passes will be quite different than the Court in 1966 or 1983

15 For Next Time What parts of California supported Proposition 187? Why?


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