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When Blacks Run for Judge: Racial Divisions in the Candidate Preferences of Louisiana Voters

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 73 Issue: 2 Dated: (August-September 1989) Pages: 87-89
R L Engstrom
Date Published
3 pages
This article examines data in 52 Louisiana judicial elections in which voters had a choice between or among black and white candidates to determine whether there is empirical evidence for the litigation claim that minority voters have candidate preferences in judicial elections that are not shared by other voters.
Given the existence of such a circumstance, the argument continues that the minority preferences will usually be defeated due to the manner in which electoral competition has been structured (e.g., citywide or countywide voting in majority white or Anglo jurisdictions). The racial or ethnic compositions of voting precincts normally differ. If these differences relate in a systematic way to the level of support a candidate receives in those precincts, it is possible to estimate through standard statistical procedures the percentage of the votes cast by minority voters and other voters that were in favor of that candidate. Overall, in 52 judicial elections in Louisiana held from 1978 through April 1988 offering voters a biracial choice of candidates, black voters preferred black candidates in 90.4 percent. This preference was never shared by white voters. This consistent racial polarization in candidate preferences was one of the critical factors that led the Federal district court to conclude that Louisiana's judicial election system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 2 tables, 9 footnotes.