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Changing Geography of Jurisdictions Covered Under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act

Authors: Matthew Brooks*, U.S. Bureau of the Census
Topics: Political Geography, Ethnic Geography, Legal Geography
Keywords: Voting Rights Act, Language Minorities, Elections
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act require that when a covered state or political subdivision provides materials relating to the electoral process it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language. Covered language minorities are limited to American Indians, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives, and Spanish-heritage citizens - the groups that Congress found to have faced barriers in the political process. Since the first determinations were released in 1977, jurisdictions west of the Mississippi River have comprised an overwhelming majority of the geographies covered by Section 203. In recent years coverage of eastern areas has begun to rise. Explore these fluctuations by reviewing changes in the determination criteria and shifting demographics. Originally determined by the Department of Justice, covered jurisdictions are now calculated by the Census Bureau based upon a formula set out in the Voting Rights Act. The most recent determinations for Section 203 were released on December 5, 2016.

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