Persily Files Amicus Brief in Voting Law Case

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June 19, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, an expert on election law and voters’ rights, has written and filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an amicus brief on behalf of himself and other political scientists who have been appointed by courts to draw legislative districts.
The brief was filed in a case called Bartlett v Strickland, which asks whether a racial minority group must be able to constitute a majority of a single member district in order to have a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The case may have important implications for the 2010 round of Congressional redistricting and the ability of parties to challenge legislative districting plans, Persily said. The brief argues that the Court must understand the drawbacks of available population data and the many factors that affect the ability of minorities to elect their preferred candidates.
This is the first brief that has ever been filed on behalf of court-appointed redistricting experts, Persily said. The brief was filed on behalf of neither party to the case.
“Judicial interpretations of the Voting Rights Act ought to account for the practical realities that confront experts drawing redistricting plans or testifying in redistricting cases,” Persily writes in the brief. “One of those realities concerns the variety and limitations of statistics to describe minority population percentages.
“Another concerns the range of jurisdiction-specific factors that influence whether a minority community has an equal opportunity to elect its candidate off choice,” he writes.
He notes that “accurately assessing a minority group’s opportunity to elect its candidate of choice will require a sensitive inquiry into the unique local political dynamics of a given jurisdiction.”
To read the full amicus brief, click here.
Persily, an expert on voting rights, election law, constitutional law, and American politics, has been a court-appointed expert for redistricting cases in Georgia, Maryland and New York, and has served as an expert witness or outside counsel in similar cases in California and Florida.
Persily has co-edited a new book, Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy, which takes an innovative approach to measuring how greatly U.S. Supreme Court decisions mold American public opinion. Such hot button issues as desegregation, school prayer, abortion, the death penalty, gender equality, affirmative action, flag burning, gay rights, the right to die and the war on terror and its impact on civil liberties are covered.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, and criminal law.