Election Law 101

In the last week, I have been doing the background research on my thesis. This entails getting up to speed on election law in general, which is more time consuming than I originally thought. To gain a sort of base knowledge in this subject matter, I have been reading a lot of case law and legislation that protects the representation of others.  This method, which my thesis advisor, Dr. McGovern, referred to as the “soak and poke” approach has allowed me to immerse myself in the relevant literature. While it has been a bit trying at times to read books and books on solely just context, I know more about gerrymandering in more depth than I imagined I ever would.

Reading about these old cases that changed and affected the representation of voters, like Baker v. Carr, Shaw v. Reno, and many others has given me a good legislative background on how the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has affected our government. Doing so much reading on election law, while usually riveting, has its daily challenges.

Sometimes, I felt a bit removed from my actual project, because of how dense the reading is and how long ago these cases all seem. Essentially, some days it is increasingly difficult to stay motivated. I looked back fondly on memories of submitting the honors thesis application, the rush of having an idea, and the thrill of having that very idea approved. Granted, I still am very much psyched to be working on my own project, but as I’ve gotten acclimated to the work, I am filled with less joy. Needless to say, the passionate flame of excitement I felt for my thesis has definitely dulled. In the more recent days, it has adopted an enduring, warm glow.

This week, I felt an influx of both excitement and dread. The Supreme Court released their rulings on their most recent gerrymandering cases. Given that the Court has more conservative justices and Justice Ginsberg was wearing her dissenting collar, the outlook was not good.  The Supreme Court ruled on Abbott v. Perez, a racial gerrymander court case that I am using for my thesis. Out of the districts that the plaintiffs took issue with, all but one of them were considered acceptable districts that did not racially gerrymander.  This came as a surprise to me, as the district maps had not looked compact or shown characteristics of contiguity. Fortunately, I can only hope that my research will provide further explanation as to why individuals should have an equal amount of representation.