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Partisanship, Structure, and Representation: The Puzzle of African American Education Politics



The 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act targeted electoral structures as significant determinants of minority representation. The research regarding electoral structures and representation of constituents, however, has produced conflicting results, and the continued application of some of the provisions set forth in the Voting Rights Act is in doubt. This article addresses the impact of at-large elections on African American representation and reveals a striking and unanticipated finding: African Americans are now overrepresented on school boards that have at-large elections when African Americans are a minority of the population. Using the 1,800 largest school districts in the United States (based on original surveys conducted in 2001, 2004, and 2008), we find that partisanship changes the relationship between electoral structures and race to benefit African American representation.


Corresponding author

Kenneth J. Meier is Charles H. Gregory Chair in Liberal Arts, Department of Political Science, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (
Amanda Rutherford is Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (


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