New report on voting rights and minority vote protection

The National Commission on the Voting Rights Act issued a long (187 page) report titled “Protecting Minority Voters: The Voting Rights Act at Work, 1982-2005.” For those interested in the general issue of the Voting Rights Act, it’s effects on protecting minority voting rights, and the current debate over renewal of the Voting Rights Act (see my recent essay on Senator Obama’s comments on VRA renewal), this report is an interesting read.

For readers of Election Updates interested in election administration issues, there is a very useful discussion within this report on minority language assistance programs. This discussion is buried in the report, from pages 67 through 75. In particular, there is a helpful discussion in the section titled “Examples of Effective Language Assistance Programs” on various efforts throughout the nation.

The following section, on “Language Assistance and Voter Turnout” is interesting, less compelling, but provocative. At this point in the report, they cite testimony at their hearings, as well as a study by James Tucker and Rodolfo Espino (which I’ll try to find but haven’t yet tracked down), which is asserted to provide evidence that language assistance programs have boosted minority voter turnout. The details provided about the Tucker and Espino study state that “the findings are based on a survey sent to 810 covered jurisdictions in 33 states. Over half responded, and complete responses were received from 361 jurisdictions in 31 states” (pages 67-68). What is difficult to understand is how one could focus only on covered jurisdictions and study the effect of language assistance programs on voter participation; rather the right methodology would seem to be to study all jurisdictions and to have variance from both jurisdictions without language assistance programs and those that do have language assistance programs to assess the effect of variance between program type and voter participation. In any case, I will try to locate this study and pass it along to readers of Election Updates, as it will be good to go to the source for details of their study. For enterprising students looking for research projects, here is a good one: look at how these VRA programs (and how well they are implemented) serve to enhance voter participation across the United States, since VRA implementation.