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The Use of Section 2 to Secure Fair Representation

A state-by-state compilation of successful litigation under the Section 2 vote dilution doctrine to secure fair representation for communities of color.

Last Updated: August 13, 2021
Published: August 12, 2021

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act ensures that communit­ies of color in all 50 states have an equal oppor­tun­ity to parti­cip­ate in the polit­ical process and to elect candid­ates of choice. The act has been a power­ful tool that has helped secure fair repres­ent­a­tion for Black, Latino, Asian, and native communit­ies through its deterrent effects and by giving voters of color an oppor­tun­ity to chal­lenge discrim­in­at­ory schemes in federal court. This resource compiles success­ful cases that have been brought under Section 2’s vote dilu­tion doctrine since Congress last reau­thor­ized the Voting Rights Act in 2006. 

 

  • Cali­for­nia
    • Luna v. Cty. of Kern, 291 F. Supp. 3d 1088 (E.D. Cal. 2018) (Plaintiffs chal­lenged the district­ing plan for the Kern County, Cali­for­nia Board of Super­visors, seek­ing to create a second major­ity-Latino district. Under the total­ity of circum­stances, the district­ing plan for the Kern County, Cali­for­nia Board of Super­visors deprived Latino voters of equal oppor­tun­ity to elect repres­ent­at­ives of their choice, in viol­a­tion of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.).
  • Flor­ida
    • United States v. Osceola Cty., Fla., 475 F. Supp. 2d 1220 (M.D. Fla. 2006) (United States sued Osceola County, Flor­ida, claim­ing that at-large method of elect­ing board of county commis­sion­ers abridged voting rights of Latino resid­ents. Court found all three Gingles factors and a major­ity of the Senate factors present, thus under a total­ity of the circum­stances the elec­tion process viol­ated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act).
  • Geor­gia
    • Wright v. Sumter Cty. Bd. of Elec­tions & Regis­tra­tion, 301 F. Supp. 3d 1297 (M.D. Ga. 2018), aff’d, 979 F.3d 1282 (11th Cir. 2020) (African Amer­ican resid­ent chal­lenged Sump­ter county board of elec­tion in which Black voters were frag­men­ted amongst 5 single-member districts and 2 at-large districts. Under the total­ity of circum­stances, African Amer­ican voters had less oppor­tun­ity than other members of the elect­or­ate to parti­cip­ate in the polit­ical process and elect candid­ates of their choice than white citizens.).
       
    • Geor­gia State Conf. of the NAACP v. Fayette Cty. Bd. of Comm’rs, 118 F. Supp. 3d 1338 (N.D. Ga. 2015) (African Amer­ican voters brought action alleging that at-large method of elect­ing County Board of Commis­sion­ers (BOC) and Board of Educa­tion. Plaintiffs sought and were gran­ted prelim­in­ary injunc­tion, enjoin­ing county from hold­ing special elec­tion for BOC vacancy using the at-large method in place prior to litig­a­tion. The remedial plan developed during litig­a­tion was later adop­ted in settle­ment agree­ments that resul­ted from court ordered medi­ation. Consent Order (Docu­ment 289), Geor­gia State Conf. of the NAACP v. Fayette Cty. Bd. of Comm’rs (No. 3:11-cv-00123 N.D. Geor­gia, Jan. 28th, 2016 ).
  • Michigan
    • United States v. City of East­pointe, No. 417CV10079T­GB­DRG, 2019 WL 2647355 (E.D. Mich. June 26, 2019), motion for relief from judg­ment denied, 17-CV-10079, 2020 WL 127953 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 10, 2020) (The United States sued the city of East­pointe, Michigan, over at-large voting method used to elect city coun­cil, alleging vote dilu­tion of Black resid­ents. In Consent Judge­ment and Decree, Defend­ants did not concede the ulti­mate issue of § 2 liab­il­ity but acknow­ledged the pres­ence of Gingles factors and like­li­hood of the United States succeed­ing at trial under the total­ity of the circum­stances. Defend­ants agreed to discon­tinue the at-large, multiple-vote method of elect­ing the city coun­cil and imple­ment a ranked choice voting system.).
  • Missis­sippi
    • Jamison v. Tupelo, Missis­sippi, 471 F. Supp. 2d 706 (N.D. Miss. 2007) (African Amer­ican voters chal­lenged city’s elec­tion scheme for city coun­cil members, in which seven city coun­cil members were elec­ted from single member districts and two city coun­cil members were elec­ted at large, diluted African Amer­ican voting strength. The court held that the total­ity of the circum­stances, includ­ing the city’s use of major­ity vote primar­ies and the fact that no African Amer­ican has won a contested city-wide elec­tion for mayor or at-large city coun­cil member, suppor­ted a § 2 viol­a­tion.).
  • Missouri
    • Missouri State Conf. of the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advance­ment of Colored People v. Ferguson-Floris­sant Sch. Dist., 201 F. Supp. 3d 1006 (E.D. Mo. 2016), aff’d, 894 F.3d 924 (8th Cir. 2018) (African Amer­ican voters alleged that the at-large method, combined with off-cycle elec­tions and staggered terms of elect­ing members to the school board consti­tuted vote dilu­tion. The court ruled that these proced­ures inter­ac­ted with Senate factors to hinder African Amer­ican elect­oral success under the total­ity of the circum­stances.).
  • New York
    • Pope v. Cty. of Albany, 94 F. Supp. 3d 302 (N.D.N.Y. 2015) (Black and Latino voters chal­lenged the district­ing plan for the Albany County legis­lature, which is divided into 39 single member districts, alleging that § 2 of the Voting Rights Act required the creation of an addi­tional major­ity-minor­ity district. The court held that “the total­ity of the circum­stances—in partic­u­lar the persist­ent pres­ence of racial bloc voting, the contin­ued low levels of minor­ity-preferred candid­ate success, the linger­ing effects of past discrim­in­a­tion that continue to inhibit minor­ity parti­cip­a­tion in the elect­oral process…di­lutes the voting strength of [B]lack voters in the County.”).
       
    • Nat’l Ass’n for Advance­ment of Colored People, Spring Valley Branch v. E. Ramapo Cent. Sch. Dist., 462 F. Supp. 3d 368 (S.D.N.Y. 2020), aff’d sub nom. Clerveaux v. E. Ramapo Cent. Sch. Dist., 984 F.3d 213 (2d Cir. 2021)) (Minor­ity registered voters brought action against school district, alleging that the elec­tion system for board of educa­tion resul­ted in minor­ity vote dilu­tion. Total­ity of circum­stances, which included elec­tion system through which a bloc of white Ortho­dox and Hasidic Jewish voters was usually able to defeat Black and Latino preferred candid­ates, and a slat­ing process in which the white, private school community arranged token victor­ies by candid­ates of color for the sake of appear­ance, consti­tuted a § 2 viol­a­tion).
       
    • United States v. Vill. of Port Chester, 704 F. Supp. 2d 411 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (The United States filed action against Port Chester, alleging that at-large system used to elect six members of village’s board of trust­ees denied Latino popu­la­tion equal oppor­tun­ity to parti­cip­ate in polit­ical process and elect repres­ent­at­ives of their choice. The Court held that the total­ity of circum­stances, includ­ing a candid­ate selec­tion process which allowed limited access to outsiders or upstart candid­ates, suppor­ted find­ing of § 2 viol­a­tion.).
       
    • Flores v. Town of Islip, No. 18-CV-3549 (GRB)(ST), 2020 WL 6060982 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2020) (Hispanic and Latino resid­ents of the Town of Islip and two community advocacy organ­iz­a­tions chal­lenged the at-large voting proced­ure used to elect the four coun­cilp­er­sons of the Town Board. The Court previ­ously denied Plaintiffs’ prelim­in­ary injunc­tion request but found that Plaintiffs were able to satisfy the Gingles factors, which parties do not contest. In consent decree, Defend­ants stip­u­lated that the at-large system for elec­tions viol­ated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.).
  • Ohio
    • United States v. City of Euclid, 580 F. Supp. 2d 584 (N.D. Ohio 2008) (The United States chal­lenged the district­ing scheme for the Euclid city coun­cil, which comprised a combin­a­tion of slot­ted, at-large and single member districts, claim­ing that the scheme diluted the votes of African Amer­ic­ans in viol­a­tion of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Total­ity of circum­stances, included the use of a numbered post system that enhanced vote dilu­tion, suppor­ted find­ing of § 2 liab­il­ity. The Court ordered the creation of at least two African Amer­ican major­ity districts through the elim­in­a­tion of the four, slot­ted, at-large seats).
       
    • United States v. Euclid City Sch. Bd., 632 F. Supp. 2d 740 (N.D. Ohio 2009) (The United States chal­lenged the at-large district­ing scheme for the Euclid school board, claim­ing that the scheme diluted the votes of African Amer­ic­ans in viol­a­tion of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Based on liab­il­ity estab­lished in previ­ous Euclid voting cases, the Board conceded that its current method of elec­tions denies minor­it­ies the oppor­tun­ity to parti­cip­ate mean­ing­fully in the polit­ical process, in viol­a­tion of § 2. The Court ordered the imple­ment­a­tion of limited voting as a remedy.).
  • South Dakota
    • Bone Shirt v. Hazelt­ine, 336 F. Supp. 2d 976 (D.S.D. 2004) (Native Amer­ican voters sued alleging that South Dakota legis­lat­ive redis­trict­ing plan viol­ated Voting Rights Act by pack­ing Native Amer­ic­ans into district that was over 90% Native Amer­ican. Court found § 2 viol­a­tion, partially on the basis that Plaintiffs intro­duced five examples of redis­trict­ing plans that created at least one addi­tional major­ity-Indian house district while adher­ing to tradi­tional redis­trict­ing prin­ciples.).
  • Texas
    • Patino v. City of Pasadena, 230 F.Supp.3d 667 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (Latino voters brought action against the city of Pasadena, alleging that city’s change from eight single-member districts for elect­ing city coun­cil members to six single member districts and two at-large districts diluted Latino voting strength by redu­cing the major­ity-Latino districts from four to three diluted Latino voting strength in viol­a­tion of Voting Rights Act and Fifteenth Amend­ment. The Court held that the city was liable for both a § 2 viol­a­tion and inten­tional discrim­in­a­tion under the Equal Protec­tion Clause in part because the city enacted the plan when Latino voters were on the cusp of elect­ing a major­ity of the city coun­cil for the first time.).
       
    • Benavidez v. Irving Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 3:13-CV-0087-D, 2014 WL 4055366 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 15, 2014) (Latino resid­ents chal­lenged the Irving Inde­pend­ent School District’s district­ing scheme for elect­ing trust­ees, comprised of five single-member districts and two at-large districts. Strong evid­ence of racial polar­iz­a­tion suppor­ted the Court’s find­ing that the district­ing scheme viol­ated § 2, includ­ing testi­mony by a former trustee that some people were uncom­fort­able with the growth of the Latino popu­la­tion within the school district as well as the stip­u­lated fact that no Latino candid­ate has ever been elec­ted in a contested elec­tion against a non-Latino.).
       
    • Fabela v. City of Farm­ers Branch, Tex., No. 3:10-CV-1425-D, 2012 WL 3135545 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 2, 2012) (Latino resid­ents of the City of Farm­ers Branch chal­lenged the at-large system of elect­ing members to the city coun­cil under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Court’s find­ing of § 2 liab­il­ity was suppor­ted in part by the fact that no Latino candid­ate has ever been elec­ted to the city coun­cil or mayor under the at-large scheme.).
  • Virginia
    • Hollo­way v. City of Virginia Beach, No. 2:18-CV-69, 2021 WL 1226554 (E.D. Va. Mar. 31, 2021), appeal pending (Black resid­ents of city brought action alleging that city’s at-large elec­tion for city coun­cil viol­ated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by dilut­ing the voting strength of Black, Hispanic Amer­ican, and Asian Amer­ican voters.
       
    • History of offi­cial discrim­in­a­tion against city’s Black community follow­ing Recon­struc­tion as well as against minor­ity immig­rant communit­ies through hous­ing discrim­in­a­tion and federal immig­ra­tion laws suppor­ted find­ing of § 2 liab­il­ity.).
  • Wash­ing­ton
    • Montes v. City of Yakima, 40 F. Supp. 3d 1377 (E.D. Wash. 2014) (Latino Plaintiffs brought action against city, alleging that city’s at-large system of elect­ing members to the city coun­cil viol­ated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court held that the at-large scheme preven­ted Latino resid­ents from elect­ing a candid­ate of their choice, in part because the city’s “numbered post system, with its effect­ive major­ity vote require­ment, places Latino voters at a steep math­em­at­ical disad­vant­age, even when their voting strength is perfectly optim­ized.”).
  • Wiscon­sin
    • Baldus v. Members of Wiscon­sin Gov’t Account­ab­il­ity Bd., 849 F. Supp. 2d 840 (E.D. Wis. 2012) (Latino Plaintiffs chal­lenge Wiscon­sin legis­lat­ive redis­trict­ing plan for area of Milwau­kee County. Plan viol­ated § 2 by “crack­ing” the Latino community into two Latino influ­ence districts; in addi­tion to satis­fy­ing other Gingles factors, community was suffi­ciently large and geograph­ic­ally compact to create one major­ity-minor­ity district.).
  • Wyom­ing
    • Large v. Fremont Cty., Wyo., 709 F. Supp. 2d 1176 (D. Wyo. 2010) (Enrolled members of East­ern Shos­hone and North­ern Arapaho Tribes brought action against county, members of county commis­sion, and county clerk, in their offi­cial capa­cit­ies, alleging, among other things, that county’s at-large method for county commis­sion elec­tions viol­ated § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Court found § 2 viol­a­tion, in part based on evid­ence that polit­ical campaigns in the county were char­ac­ter­ized by overt or subtle racial appeals; and only one Native Amer­ican had ever been elec­ted to county commis­sion.).