Introducing RPV Near Me – Election Law Blog

ATTORNEY

The following is a guest post by Ruth Greenwood, the director of the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School:

The Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School (“ELC”) now offers free access to summary measures of racially polarized voting (“RPV”) for every county in the country. The analysis was conducted by Christopher T. Kenny, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University. All the results are available to view and download.

This project is the latest step in my efforts to promote more and better representation for communities of color in local government. A key policy in this area has been the enactment of state VRAs (SVRAs) across the country. California was first out of the pack in 2002, and in recent years Washington, Oregon, Virginia, and New York have all built on the CVRA in developing their own statutes (with ever more expansive and creative ways for local governments to enfranchise and represent communities of color). As the 2023 legislative sessions begin, I hope and expect to see even more states adopt SVRAs.

I hope RPV Near Me will be a resource for voters, community groups, activists, lawyers, and journalists in states with SVRAs to identify jurisdictions where the electoral system could be improved. I also hope RPV Near Me will be a resource in states considering adopting an SVRA—it should help with the identification of communities that might be better represented through new electoral systems.

The site includes visualizations of the RPV results for a number of recent elections in every county in the U.S. This information can give us a sense of the voting patterns of members of different racial and ethnic communities around the country. The site is not intended to be used in litigation (as all VRA litigators know, court cases also require analysis of endogenous elections); rather, the site should be used to identify trends and potential hotspots. We are exploring adding more data to the site (such as analysis for Asian American and Native American communities, and for cities, towns, and villages). If there is data that might help you seek better representation for communities of color in local government, please reach out to me to discuss.

Overview of the Available Data

Here I show some examples of the types of conclusions you might draw from the high-level data available on RPV Near Me. In Middlesex County, MA (home to the Election Law Clinic), there is little evidence of RPV (except in the Governor’s race in 2018):

While in Jacksonville, FL (where the Election Law Clinic currently represents, among others, the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP in a racial gerrymandering lawsuit), there is evidence of extreme RPV between Black and white voters:

Currently, the site only offers data for four categories of voters (white, Black, Hispanic, and other). These categories allow you to see where there is evidence that Black and Hispanic voters form a political coalition, for example, in Virginia Beach, VA; and where there is not such evidence, for example, in Miami-Dade, FL:

Finally, there are some places where the minority communities are so small that we can’t get accurate RPV estimates (because the credible intervals are just too large), for example, Aurora County, S.D.:

Data and Methods

The data and methods used for RPV Near Me were provided by:

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