Kenneth J. Meier and Amanda Rutherford: “Partisanship, Structure and the Quality of Representation: The Puzzle of African American Education Politics”
Wed, September 19, 2012 • 3:00 PM • BAT 5.108
Kenneth J. Meier and Amanda Rutherford, Department of Political Science Texas A&M University
The 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act concluded that electoral structures were significant determinants of minority representation. The research regarding electoral structures and representation of constituents, however, has produced conflicting results. This paper addresses two puzzles that remain in understanding black representation. The first puzzle examines whether or not the impact of at-large elections on African American representation has declined. The second puzzle examines how well black representatives do in gaining substantive benefits in different electoral structures – at-large elections versus single member districts. This paper provides a brief formal argument that links electoral structures to descriptive and substantive representation. It then moves to an empirical study using the 1800 largest school districts in the United States (based on an original survey conducted in 2001, 2004, and 2008). We find that partisanship changes the relationship between electoral structures and race to benefit African American representation and that politics and partisanship influence the ability of political representatives to secure policy benefits.