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Social Explorer Case Study: Evenwel v. Abbott

THURSDAY, MAY 05, 2022

Problem:

A group of Advocacy Groups, Media and Lawyers interested in effects of Evenwel v. Abbott (A Case Before the Supreme Court in 2015) approached Social Explorer with about helping communicate the impact of the case to the broader public. The 2015 case was an appeal of a federal district court decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that using total population counts to redraw legislative district boundaries in Texas – instead of the voting-age population – diluted the voting power of people in districts with large numbers of children or non-citizens. Restricting legislative district population to citizens of voting age would have increased the political power of older, conservative white Americans at the expense of a younger, less-conservative Hispanic population.

Solution:

Using the Social Explorer platform, we developed a tool that allowed anyone to see the impact of restricting the population to citizens of voting age in any area in the United States. The tool used data from the 2010 Census and American Community Survey to display the changes that would be necessary to bring each district into balance. In addition, a report was created that assessed the overall effects on a state-by-state basis and added information about the voting patterns in some states.  The project and report are still available at this website

Outcome:

The project was named the Best Law Website in the 20th Annual Webby awards and was used across the country by more than 1,000 media outlets to illustrate the potential effects of a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. (The Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs, allowing states to continue using total populations to redraw legislative boundaries.) When the last administration pressed for the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the updated Social Explorer system was again highlighted by several media outlets, including 538.com, Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, and The Daily Beast, among others.


Author: Frank Bass

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