Are Two Minorities Equal to One?: Minority Coalition Groups and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act

By Kevin Sette

Following Jim Crow, vote dilution is the second-generation barrier standing between minority voters and the polls. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) protects racial and language minorities from these vote dilution practices. To sustain a section 2 claim, a protected “class of citizens” must satisfy the criteria laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles. First, the class must constitute the majority of a hypothetical single-member voting district. Second, the class must be politically cohesive. Third, the minority class’s preferred candidate must be defeated by a white majority voting bloc.

What the Supreme Court has yet to answer is whether members of more than one minority group may form a single “class” to sustain a claim under Gingles and the VRA. In the Court’s silence, the federal circuits have diverged on the answer to this question. This Note examines the developing circuit split and proposes that the Supreme Court recognize protection of minority coalitions under the VRA. Principles of statutory interpretation require prudent courts to recognize that minority aggregation is contemplated by section 2. Further, the existing Gingles framework is readily equipped to prevent noncohesive groups from abusing section 2 for unfair political advantage.