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“Hot Topics” Alternative Voting Systems and Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration Justin Levitt December 10, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "“Hot Topics” Alternative Voting Systems and Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration Justin Levitt December 10, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Hot Topics” Alternative Voting Systems and Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration Justin Levitt December 10, 2009

2 The Brennan Center and redistricting Based at NYU, but work nationwide Think tank, advocacy group, law firm Study of redistricting practices and reform initiatives Testimony before decisionmakers Consulting for advocates Advocacy and publication

3 Food for thought Alternative Voting Systems Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration

4 Food for thought Alternative Voting Systems Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration

5 The frequent status quo Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: 1 vote for each seat 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Vote for up to 5 George W. John A. Thomas J. James M. Andrew J. Martin v. B. William H. John T. James P. Zachary T.

6 At-large voting Officials accountable to whole political unit Broader pool for candidates Avoids need to determine where to draw district lines Can dilute minority votes

7 The frequent status quo Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: 1 vote for each seat 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Vote for up to 5 George W. James M. Martin v. B. John T. James P John A. Thomas J. Andrew J. William H. Zachary T

8 Vote in your district John A. James M. Martin v. B. William H. James P Districts are the standard solution Districted elections Each voter: 1 vote in your district 5-seat city council EXAMPLE George W. Thomas J. Andrew J. John T. Zachary T.

9 But districts may be less appropriate … 5-seat city council EXAMPLE If the minority population is dispersed, in pockets

10 But districts may be less appropriate … 5-seat city council EXAMPLE If the minority population is dispersed, in pockets If the minority population is fairly well integrated

11 But districts may be less appropriate … 5-seat city council EXAMPLE If the minority population is dispersed, in pockets If the minority population is fairly well integrated If the minority population is growing rapidly

12 But districts may be less appropriate … 5-seat city council EXAMPLE If the minority population is dispersed, in pockets If the minority population is fairly well integrated If the minority population is growing rapidly If two minority groups with different preferences live side by side

13 Consider alternative voting systems Cumulative voting Limited voting Ranked choice voting

14 Cumulative voting Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: as many votes as seats, and the votes can be grouped 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Allocate five votes George W. Thomas J. James M. William H. James P. John A. Andrew J. Martin v. B. John T. Zachary T.

15 Cumulative voting Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: as many votes as seats, and the votes can be grouped 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Allocate five votes George W. Thomas J. James M. William H. James P x59x5 John A. Andrew J. Martin v. B. John T. Zachary T.

16 Limited voting Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: fewer votes than seats 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Vote for two George W. Thomas J. James M. William H. James P. John A. Andrew J. Martin v. B. John T. Zachary T.

17 Limited voting Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: fewer votes than seats 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Vote for two George W. Thomas J. James M. William H. James P. John A. Andrew J. Martin v. B. John T. Zachary T.

18 Ranked choice voting Citywide “at-large” elections Each voter: rank the choices 5-seat city council EXAMPLE Rank your top 5 George W. Thomas J. James M. William H. James P. John A. Andrew J. Martin v. B. John T. Zachary T

19 John T. Ranked choice voting 6 Thomas J. John A. Andrew J. Zachary T. William H. 3 John A. Thomas J. William H. Andrew J. Zachary T. 9 George W. James M. John T. James P. Martin v. B. 3 George W. John T. Martin v. B. James M. James P. 3 James M. John T. George W. John A. James P. George W. Thomas J. John A. James M. Threshold =

20 John T. Ranked choice voting 6 Thomas J. John A. Andrew J. Zachary T. William H. 3 John A. Thomas J. William H. Andrew J. Zachary T. 9 George W. James M. John T. James P. Martin v. B. 3 George W. John T. Martin v. B. James M. James P. 3 James M. John T. George W. John A. James P. George W. Thomas J. John A. James M. Threshold =

21 John T. Ranked choice voting 6 Thomas J. John A. Andrew J. Zachary T. William H. 3 John A. Thomas J. William H. Andrew J. Zachary T. 9 George W. James M. John T. James P. Martin v. B. 3 George W. John T. Martin v. B. James M. James P. 3 James M. John T. George W. John A. James P. George W. Thomas J. John A. James M. Threshold =

22 John T. Ranked choice voting 6 Thomas J. John A. Andrew J. Zachary T. William H. 3 John A. Thomas J. William H. Andrew J. Zachary T. 9 George W. James M. John T. James P. Martin v. B. 3 George W. John T. Martin v. B. James M. James P. 3 James M. John T. George W. John A. James P. George W. Thomas J. John A. James M. Threshold =

23 Limitations of alternative systems Need education “Vote for two” “Rank your choices, 1-5” “Use five votes total”

24 Limitations of alternative systems Differently susceptible to turnout More downside risk More upside gain

25 Vote in your district John A. James M. Martin v. B. William H. James P Another look at districts 5-seat city council EXAMPLE George W. Thomas J. Andrew J. John T. Zachary T. What if minority turnout drops off?

26 Vote in your district John A. James M. Martin v. B. William H. James P Districts can be designed for turnout 5-seat city council EXAMPLE George W. Thomas J. Andrew J. John T. Zachary T. Safe in case of reduced turnout But overpacked if turnout (or crossover voting) is high

27 Alternative systems have a threshold Total Seats Cumulative Voting & Ranked Choice Voting Limited Voting 1 vote2 votes3 votes % % 40.0 % % 33.3 %42.9 % % 28.6 %37.5 % % 25.0 %33.3 % % 22.2 %30.0 % % 20.0 %27.3 % % 18.2 %25.0 % No backstop to compensate if turnout is low No limit to potential if turnout or crossover vote is high

28 And remember… If a minority population is dispersed, in pockets If a minority population is fairly well integrated If a minority population is growing rapidly If two minority groups with different preferences live side by side

29 Alternative voting systems in use today Cumulative voting> 50 jurisdictions Limited voting> 30 jurisdictions Ranked choice voting 4 jurisdictions and climbing

30 Alternative voting systems in use today In the Voting Rights Act context, cumulative voting and limited voting Have been implemented in consent decrees Have been approved by courts Have been precleared by the DOJ

31 Food for thought Alternative Voting Systems Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration

32 The status quo Now turn to districted systems Count incarcerated populations for redistricting purposes where they are incarcerated 5-seat city council

33 The status quo Now turn to districted systems Count incarcerated populations for redistricting purposes where they are incarcerated 5-seat city council Incarcerated individuals have no community ties to prison district, are not represented Eligible voters in prison district have disproportionate voting power, diluting votes in rest of jurisdiction

34 The status quo Lake County, Tennessee: 88% of county commissioner district is incarcerated Anamosa, Iowa: 93% of city council ward is incarcerated, leaving just 100 voters for 1400 allotted residents

35 The right approach Count prisoners at their pre-incarceration address, with the rest of their community 5-seat city council

36 Second best Reduce at least half the skew by counting prisoners in a district not tied to a specific location within the jurisdiction 5-seat city council Not tied to any district

37 And further… Advocate for the state legislature to do the same statewide, reducing distortion for every voter not in a prison district State legislative districts Not tied to any district

38 Avoid Voting Rights Act problems The racial impact of the dilution caused by the prisoner-count distortion was raised in Voting Rights Act litigation in

39 Food for thought Alternative Voting Systems Redistricting Consequences of Incarceration

40 Justin Levitt Brennan Center for Justice Further information


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