Nate Persily, Steve Ansolabehere, and Charles Stewart just completedthis article addressing the relevance of the Voting Rights Act in light of Barack Obama’s presidential victory:
The election of an African American as President of the United States has raised questions as to the continued relevance and even constitutionality of various provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Barack Obama’s apparent success among whites in 2008 has caused some to question the background conditions of racially polarized voting that are key to litigation under Section 2 of the VRA. His success in certain states, such as Virginia, has also raised doubts about the formula for coverage of jurisdictions under Section 5 of the VRA. This Article examines the data from the 2008 primary and general election to assess, in particular, the geographic patterns of racial differences in voting behavior. The data suggest that significant differences remain between whites and racial minorities and between jurisdictions that are covered and not covered by Section 5 of the VRA. These differences remain even when controlling for partisanship, ideology and a host of other politically relevant variables. The Article discusses the implications of President Obama’s election for legal conceptions of racially polarized voting and for decisions concerning which jurisdictions Section 5 ought to cover.
It’s interesting stuff and full of data. I don’t have much to add right now, beyond pointing to a discussion I had several months ago of an earlier paper by Ansolabehere and Stewart (they wrote “Obama won because of race,” and I wrote that “the #1 feature of the election was a bad economy that produced a national swing toward the Democrats in general and Obama and particular. But once you want to break this down by demographics, I agree that ethnicity is the biggest factor.”
And also reposting some graphs I’ve made in the past several months: