Volume 70, Number 2 – November 2020

Articles

Reconstructing Racially Polarized Voting
Travis Crum
PDF

Racially polarized voting makes minorities more vulnerable to discriminatory changes in election laws and therefore implicates nearly every voting rights doctrine. In Thornburg v. Gingles , the Supreme Court held that racially polarized voting is a necessary—but not a sufficient—condition for a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court, however, has recently questioned the propriety of recognizing the existence of racially polarized voting. This colorblind approach threatens not only the Gingles factors but also Section 2’s constitutionality.

The Court treats racially polarized voting as a modern phenomenon. But the relevant starting point is the 1860s, not the 1960s. Prior to the Fifteenth Amendment’s passage, Republicans received overwhelming support from newly enfranchised Black voters in the former Confederate States and expected that support to continue. The Reconstruction Framers were thus attentive to the realities of racially polarized voting and openly recognized that extending the franchise would empower Black voters to mobilize politically and protect their own interests. Racially polarized voting was a feature—not a bug—in the passage and ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Accordingly, this Article argues that the Court’s treatment of racially polarized voting as a constitutional taboo is historically unfounded and doctrinally incoherent.

There are significant implications for acknowledging the role of racially polarized voting during Reconstruction. This historical insight moves vote dilution claims—and their predicate finding of racially polarized voting—far closer to the heart of the Reconstruction Amendments and challenges the Court’s hostility to race-based redistricting. It is powerful evidence that Congress is well within its enforcement authority to remedy and deter dilutive measures that exploit racially polarized voting. Finally, reconstructing racially polarized voting helps reorient voting rights doctrine toward a Fifteenth Amendment framework.

Quasi Campaign Finance
Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos
PDF

Say you’re wealthy and want to influence American politics. How would you do it? Conventional campaign finance—giving or spending money to sway elections—is one option. Lobbying is another. This Article identifies and explores a third possibility: quasi campaign finance, or spending money on nonelectoral communications with voters that nevertheless rely on an electoral mechanism to be effective. Little is currently known about quasi campaign finance because no law requires its disclosure. But its use by America’s richest and politically savviest individuals—the Koch brothers, Michael Bloomberg, and the like—appears to be rising. It also seems to skew policy outcomes in the spenders’ preferred direction.

After introducing quasi campaign finance, the Article considers its legal status. Is it like ordinary campaign finance, in which case it could be regulated fairly extensively? Or is it like garden-variety political speech, rendering it presumptively unregulable? One argument for pairing quasi and regular campaign finance is that they share several features—who bankrolls them, the tactics they pay for, the reasons they work—and so may serve as substitutes. Another rationale for conflation is that they may both cause the same democratic injuries: corruption, the distortion of public opinion, and the misalignment of public policy. Pitted against these points is the slippery-slope objection: If quasi campaign finance may constitutionally be curbed, what political speech may not be?

Lastly, the Article suggests how quasi campaign finance should (assuming it actually may) be regulated. Limits on contributions and expenditures are unwise and probably unadministrable. Disclosure, though, is a necessity. The public should know who is trying to persuade it (and how). Even more promising is the public subsidization of quasi campaign finance. If every voter received a voucher for this purpose, then public funds might crowd out private capital, thus alleviating its harmful effects.

Notes

Furthering Decolonization: Judicial Review of Colonial Criminal Law
Maryam Kanna
PDF

Most of the world today was once colonized by a European power. Great Britain was one of the most prolific colonizers, with more than 412 million people under its rule at its height. As part of its colonial enterprise, Great Britain transplanted criminal laws into its colonies and territories, to varying degrees. Across many former Commonwealth colonies, the criminal codes implemented by the British were similar or even identical. Today, these colonial criminal codes remain largely intact in many former colonies. Some of these colonial criminal laws are notoriously used by modern postcolonial governments to infringe human rights and restrict constitutional freedoms. While these laws have sometimes been challenged in court, they are often upheld despite their troublesome impact.

These laws are colonial holdovers, persisting in modern, postcolonial societies despite their anachronistic and foreign origins. As formerly colonized states continue the process of decolonization, their courts should assess a law’s colonial origin when considering its validity under the native constitution. This Note contends that courts across the former British Empire can operationalize consideration of a law’s colonial origin as an element of formal judicial review through a means-end proportionality test. Through a discussion of two types of proportionality—sequential and nonsequential—and their application to sodomy and sedition laws in three former British colonies—Malaysia, Kenya, and briefly, India—this Note demonstrates how proportionality can equip constitutional courts to further the national process of decolonization and the pursuit of self-determination.

Keeping Secrets: The Unsettled Law of Judge-Made Exceptions to Grand Jury Secrecy
H. Brent McKnight Jr.
PDF

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) functionally binds everyone who is present during grand jury proceedings (except witnesses) to secrecy. But questions arise when courts are asked to make exceptions to grand jury secrecy outside those enumerated in the rule, such as exceptions for Congress or for the release of historically significant grand jury records.

This Note examines the propriety of judge-made exceptions to grand jury secrecy. Contrary to some courts authorizing disclosure outside of Rule 6(e), this Note argues that the text and development of Rule 6(e), along with limitations on courts’ inherent authority over grand jury procedure, caution against this practice. The tension between the current practice of some courts and the apparent meaning of Rule 6(e) renders the law of grand jury secrecy unsettled. To clarify the law, the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules should add a residual exception to Rule 6(e) that would not only give courts flexibility and discretion but also a clear source of authority on which to authorize disclosures.

Volume 70, Number 2 – November 2020

Articles

Reconstructing Racially Polarized Voting
Travis Crum
PDF

Racially polarized voting makes minorities more vulnerable to discriminatory changes in election laws and therefore implicates nearly every voting rights doctrine. In Thornburg v. Gingles , the Supreme Court held that racially polarized voting is a necessary—but not a sufficient—condition for a vote dilution claim under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court, however, has recently questioned the propriety of recognizing the existence of racially polarized voting. This colorblind approach threatens not only the Gingles factors but also Section 2’s constitutionality.

The Court treats racially polarized voting as a modern phenomenon. But the relevant starting point is the 1860s, not the 1960s. Prior to the Fifteenth Amendment’s passage, Republicans received overwhelming support from newly enfranchised Black voters in the former Confederate States and expected that support to continue. The Reconstruction Framers were thus attentive to the realities of racially polarized voting and openly recognized that extending the franchise would empower Black voters to mobilize politically and protect their own interests. Racially polarized voting was a feature—not a bug—in the passage and ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Accordingly, this Article argues that the Court’s treatment of racially polarized voting as a constitutional taboo is historically unfounded and doctrinally incoherent.

There are significant implications for acknowledging the role of racially polarized voting during Reconstruction. This historical insight moves vote dilution claims—and their predicate finding of racially polarized voting—far closer to the heart of the Reconstruction Amendments and challenges the Court’s hostility to race-based redistricting. It is powerful evidence that Congress is well within its enforcement authority to remedy and deter dilutive measures that exploit racially polarized voting. Finally, reconstructing racially polarized voting helps reorient voting rights doctrine toward a Fifteenth Amendment framework.

Quasi Campaign Finance
Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos
PDF

Say you’re wealthy and want to influence American politics. How would you do it? Conventional campaign finance—giving or spending money to sway elections—is one option. Lobbying is another. This Article identifies and explores a third possibility: quasi campaign finance, or spending money on nonelectoral communications with voters that nevertheless rely on an electoral mechanism to be effective. Little is currently known about quasi campaign finance because no law requires its disclosure. But its use by America’s richest and politically savviest individuals—the Koch brothers, Michael Bloomberg, and the like—appears to be rising. It also seems to skew policy outcomes in the spenders’ preferred direction.

After introducing quasi campaign finance, the Article considers its legal status. Is it like ordinary campaign finance, in which case it could be regulated fairly extensively? Or is it like garden-variety political speech, rendering it presumptively unregulable? One argument for pairing quasi and regular campaign finance is that they share several features—who bankrolls them, the tactics they pay for, the reasons they work—and so may serve as substitutes. Another rationale for conflation is that they may both cause the same democratic injuries: corruption, the distortion of public opinion, and the misalignment of public policy. Pitted against these points is the slippery-slope objection: If quasi campaign finance may constitutionally be curbed, what political speech may not be?

Lastly, the Article suggests how quasi campaign finance should (assuming it actually may) be regulated. Limits on contributions and expenditures are unwise and probably unadministrable. Disclosure, though, is a necessity. The public should know who is trying to persuade it (and how). Even more promising is the public subsidization of quasi campaign finance. If every voter received a voucher for this purpose, then public funds might crowd out private capital, thus alleviating its harmful effects.

Notes

Furthering Decolonization: Judicial Review of Colonial Criminal Law
Maryam Kanna
PDF

Most of the world today was once colonized by a European power. Great Britain was one of the most prolific colonizers, with more than 412 million people under its rule at its height. As part of its colonial enterprise, Great Britain transplanted criminal laws into its colonies and territories, to varying degrees. Across many former Commonwealth colonies, the criminal codes implemented by the British were similar or even identical. Today, these colonial criminal codes remain largely intact in many former colonies. Some of these colonial criminal laws are notoriously used by modern postcolonial governments to infringe human rights and restrict constitutional freedoms. While these laws have sometimes been challenged in court, they are often upheld despite their troublesome impact.

These laws are colonial holdovers, persisting in modern, postcolonial societies despite their anachronistic and foreign origins. As formerly colonized states continue the process of decolonization, their courts should assess a law’s colonial origin when considering its validity under the native constitution. This Note contends that courts across the former British Empire can operationalize consideration of a law’s colonial origin as an element of formal judicial review through a means-end proportionality test. Through a discussion of two types of proportionality—sequential and nonsequential—and their application to sodomy and sedition laws in three former British colonies—Malaysia, Kenya, and briefly, India—this Note demonstrates how proportionality can equip constitutional courts to further the national process of decolonization and the pursuit of self-determination.

Keeping Secrets: The Unsettled Law of Judge-Made Exceptions to Grand Jury Secrecy
H. Brent McKnight Jr.
PDF

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) functionally binds everyone who is present during grand jury proceedings (except witnesses) to secrecy. But questions arise when courts are asked to make exceptions to grand jury secrecy outside those enumerated in the rule, such as exceptions for Congress or for the release of historically significant grand jury records.

This Note examines the propriety of judge-made exceptions to grand jury secrecy. Contrary to some courts authorizing disclosure outside of Rule 6(e), this Note argues that the text and development of Rule 6(e), along with limitations on courts’ inherent authority over grand jury procedure, caution against this practice. The tension between the current practice of some courts and the apparent meaning of Rule 6(e) renders the law of grand jury secrecy unsettled. To clarify the law, the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules should add a residual exception to Rule 6(e) that would not only give courts flexibility and discretion but also a clear source of authority on which to authorize disclosures.