So here’s the good political news for minorities: Thanks to the federal Voting Rights Act, they have more representation today than ever. The bad news? They are still are woefully under-represented.
In a recently published study of the Voting Rights Act, Notre Dame Professor of Africana Studies and Political Science Dianne Pinderhughes and her colleagues found, for example, that while nonwhites comprised 31 percent of the U.S. population in 2000, less than 12 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives were from ethnic minorities.
Were it not for the Voting Rights Act, the numbers likely would be even worse. Of the 71 black, Latino, Asian and Native American representatives in the 109th Congress, for instance, Pinderhuges found that more than 60 percent came from districts covered by antidiscrimination provisions of the law. For Latinos alone the figure was 100 percent.
Originally passed in 1965 to address discriminatory electoral practices in the South and renewed and expanded several times since, the act allows for—among other things—the formation of “majority-minority” districts, designed to enhance the likelihood of minority representation.