Mirroring the Mosaic

Redistricting in a Context of Cultural Pluralism

by William A. Clark, Peter A. Morrison

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As local populations become ethnically more diverse, jurisdictions must exercise particular care when they redistrict, not only to protect the voting power of citizens and ensure equal representation for equal numbers of persons, but to avoid diluting the voting strength of any "protected" group. The authors use three case studies of California cities to illustrate and discuss tensions associated with the demographics of cultural pluralism. Redistricting efforts in the 1990s have heightened the tension between the traditional conception (however exaggerated) of "melting pot" assimilation and the more complex ethnic and racial assertiveness that we conceptualize as a "mosaic." Increasingly, the shape of election districts expresses a compromise that society must strike: between national goals of ethnic and racial empowerment and the bonds of physical proximity that define local interests.

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