Voting Rights Act Hurts Obama in Mississippi

Will Majority-Minority Districting Cost Obama Mississippi in Today's Primary? Or at Least Temper His Victory?

Barack Obama has overwhelming support in the few polls conducted in Mississippi. The latest, by InsiderAdvantage, puts him at +17% and suggests that he will have "a solid win" today. This poll and all of Mississippi's polls were weighted to reflect the expected demographics of voters in the state as a whole. That is, the pollsters adjusted the numbers to account for age, race, and gender. All three categories are important predictors of voting behavior, particularly in this primary contest. But the pollsters forgot one important thing: not all districts are demographically equal. That omission may cause Obama to lose the expectations game or worse...the delegate allocation.

The problem is majority-minority districting, the means by which Congress believes nonwhites are elected to House seats. During the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the committee report suggested without dissent that "it is rare that white voters will cross over to elect minority preferred candidates. For example, in 2000, only 8 percent of African Americans were elected from majority white districts." Of course, this is a deeply misleading statistic given that many blacks and whites had already been segregated into maj-min districts after the 1990 census. The committee ignored the fact that while racial gerrymanders make it easier for nonwhites to be elected in some districts, they make it harder in others. And Congress ignores the sticky issue of equating "minority preferred candidates" with candidates of the same race. (J.C. Watts couldn't be reached for comment, I guess.)

This racial apartheid, as Justice Thomas calls it, continues to exist today in Mississippi. Which means the black vote is heavily concentrated in a single congressional district: the Mississippi 2nd, which includes Jackson and the heavily black western counties. I'm sure you've figured out where I'm going with this. Mississippi's delegates are apportioned according to the vote in each district, not the state as a whole. Obama could take the 2nd with 98% and still only get 7 delegates.

That's the bright side: the 2nd gets the most delegates to allocate (a reward for voting Democratic by the largest percentages in 2000 and 2004). Unfortunately for him, the other three districts have 5 delegates each. Which means that in each "white" district, Clinton is likely to take 3 delegates and maybe more. That's bad news for Obama, who is still looking for a post-Texas and Ohio recovery in the press. Not to mention, this race might just come down to a few votes.

Is a Mississippi upset likely to happen? Just look next door at another state with a maj-min district, Alabama. Obama won the state popular vote 56-42%, but the delegates were awarded (by the "soft count") 27-25. He only took 5 of the 7 delegates in the Alabama 7th (the racial gerrymander) and he only beat Clinton in one other district in the whole state--the 3rd--which includes Montgomery and the University of Auburn.

CNN's exit polls provide no comfort either. In Alabama, 72% of whites voted for Clinton while 84% of blacks voted for Obama (thankfully, voting along such starkly racial lines hasn't been widely repeated elsewhere). If Mississippi's voters break the same way, Obama may be in for a surprisingly disappointing day in this "solid win" state.

But his headaches don't stop there. Mississippi is having an "open primary" which means that, once again, Republicans who care to may cross over and wreak havoc among all the Democratic strategists' hopes and dreams. Many commentators are crediting Clinton's recovery in the March 4th primary to conservatives who want to keep Clinton alive until the convention. I'm not sure the same thing will happen today (InsideAdvantage says it wont, but I'm not sure how they polled for this), but if we see enough raiders, it may at least put to rest the populist canard that the primary system represents "the will of the people."

And that may be one of the two lessons we learn from this. The will of the people is a complex beast, and not easily reduced to numbers. Is it the delegate count? The popular vote by state? The popular vote in the nation as a whole? Or the popular vote by congressional district? More than that, the proportional allocation preferred by Democrats does not appear to be as representative as they had hoped, especially when the primaries are open to Republican raiders.

But real irony overwhelms any other lesson when one considers that the court-approved segregation of the Voting Rights Act may be taking delegates from this country's first serious black contender for president. Some Democrats may even realize that dividing us according to skin color is not a good remedy for racial discrimination.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 05:13 AM



Comments

1 thankfully, voting along such starkly racial lines hasn't been widely repeated elsewhere
Just to clarify, that's sarcasm right? As ace pointed out in previous posts, Ohio went whites 70-30 for Clinton and blacks 80-20.

Posted by: TheEJS at March 11, 2008 02:27 AM (nWQmo)

2 Live by the sword, die by the sword. Pity they'll take the rest of us with them.



We're no longer a constitutional republic; we just pretend we are.

Posted by: MlR at March 11, 2008 02:28 AM (mX6h5)

3 Obama won the majority of white votes in several states, including Illinois, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. He's also done very well among whites (particularly white men) in the rest of the primaries.

There is no doubt that voting along racial lines is occurring. But the severity of the problem varies from state to state.

Posted by: Gabriel at March 11, 2008 02:38 AM (CnXZn)

4 Problem is that those are also not battleground states, or in New Mexico's case, doesn't matter (as I live in ABQ, I can that).
It's not only white though. Hispanics are breaking for Hillary over Obama in most cases. Even in Texas, where Obama has come close to cracking a state with large Hispanic population, he only took 1 district bordering the Rio Grande. In California, the "Solid South" emerges as Hispanics give Hildog another victory.
Call it semantics, but I take the opposite view of the racial voting: only by state to state does it have the potential to be toned down.

Posted by: TheEJS at March 11, 2008 02:49 AM (nWQmo)

5 I can attest to that*
not only whites though*
What I get for trying to write a paper about Graham Greene's The Quiet American trying to criticize America for being immature/inexperienced in foreign affairs, only to turn around and have a complete betrayal of trust while helping to destroy "third force" global politics it engaged in until the European model collaspe of WWII while trying to link Greene's novel to Richard Pells's Not Like Us.
...long night.

Posted by: TheEJS at March 11, 2008 02:54 AM (nWQmo)

6 It's always satisfying when liberal social engineering projects backfire and destroy that which the claim to want. To see a black Democratic presidential candidate derailed by liberal jerrymandering designed to elect blacks? Priceless.

Posted by: Grimaldi at March 11, 2008 06:04 AM (lduP/)

7 There is no solution to this. There is no way to rewrite the laws or redraw the districts that will prevent such an outcome. Human nature (selfish, short-sighted, tribal) and random factors (a white ultra-liberal woman running against a black ultra-liberal man in an ultra-liberal political party) will always produce a scenario where the goddess Irony is laughing her ass off.

Posted by: eman at March 11, 2008 06:09 AM (0AZ4a)

8 "it is rare that white voters will cross over to elect minority preferred candidates.
It couldn't possibly be that Mississippi is a Republican state and most minorities run on the Democratic ticket? How silly of me. Of course, it has to be racisim instead.

Posted by: Steve L. at March 11, 2008 07:11 AM (hpZf2)

9 Exactly why gerrymandering should be called un-Constitutional.

Posted by: Veeshir at March 11, 2008 09:12 AM (zXUuJ)

10 Live by bigotry, die by bigotry, idiot Leftties would neveradmit that they areignorant racist, just like their 'Free Speech for me only" crap.
Mississippi is a Republican state and most minorities run on the Democratic ticket? Of course, it has to be racisim instead.

Posted by: vaquero at March 11, 2008 09:35 AM (M6ylA)

11 Some Democrats may even realize that dividing us according to skin color is not a good remedy for racial discrimination.

Most unlikely. The learning curve for this has been running for what...140-150 years?

Posted by: joated at March 11, 2008 10:33 AM (4gHqM)

12 Auburn University

Posted by: Nom de Blog at March 11, 2008 11:07 AM (5/uG4)

13 Sorry Gabriel, I don't see it happening. I'd be pretty surprised if Hillary took this state. We still remember that cheap shot she took at Mississippi when she was campaigning in Iowa. It's really funny to hear her blather on about what a great state we are now that she needs our votes.

The chairman of the MS Republican Party was urging Republicans NOT to crossover vote today. There are some down-ticket races that are important enough (primary vote for Trent Lott's Senate seat) that this would be a bad idea. For my part, I will probably be putting in a totally symbolic vote for Fred Thompson. Sigh. Wish it could have stayed interesting long enough for that to actually count, but DAMN, am I glad that the Huckster is out!

Posted by: Tina at March 11, 2008 11:17 AM (vQ9zp)

14 I find your faith in the Msm's ability to find its arse with both hands to be charming.
They never noticed when Hill won Texas and lost delegates....

Posted by: Doug Winship at March 11, 2008 11:37 AM (hcQ3t)

15 There are some down-ticket races that are important enough (primary vote for Trent Lott's Senate seat)

I rechecked and that's not on the ballot today. I got that mixed up with the House of Representatives primary. Crap. I'm an idiot.

Go about your business.

Posted by: Tina at March 11, 2008 11:48 AM (vQ9zp)

16 Gabriel,
Alabama's 3rd Congressional District does include Auburn University, but it only includes part of Montgomery County and part of the City of Montgomery. It does not include Maxwell AFB, for instance. See this map.
There are significant demographic differences between Alabama and Mississippi. Alabama's population is now about 1.7 million more than Mississippi, which has a population less than 3 million and is less urbanized than Alabama . Mississippi's population is 36% black, and Alabama's is 27% black.

Posted by: Hank Rearden at March 11, 2008 12:02 PM (eXk2G)

17 I'm wondering how much mischief the Repub cross-over voters will cause today. I hope they will sharply cut into Obama's margin of victory.

Posted by: Dogstar at March 11, 2008 04:33 PM (FgxdU)

18 I think it is so very sad that giving your God given right to vote should have anything to do with the color of your skin. Either a candidate has the ability to make things better in the ways that matter to each individual or they don't. How in the world does what color your skin is make a difference on that. We are either sincere and good or we're not we're either for the people or we're not. It is my hope that the future elections aren't divided by race or color. It's starting to look like the whites are starting to realize that blacks are voting in huge blocks because their candidate is black. I realize they are proud of Baraka but more than that they should be proud to be an American and vote for only the good of the country. If he truly is where your heart takes you. Then that's who you should vote for. It is important to honestly examine each our black and brown and white motives for how we vote.......and hope we do what's right.

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