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Electoral redistricting and minority political representation in Canada and the United States

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This article compares the political representation of visible minorities in Canada and the United States, focusing on differences in federal redistribution (redistricting) practices and constituency composition. Although the two countries both use territorially‐based electoral systems, they operate under different legal standards and institutional environments for the creation of ridings (districts). In the US, redistricting is a highly political process, yet must respect strict population equality standards. Litigation over redistricting is common, and courts adjudicate voting and representation under a constitutional system enforcing strong individual rights. In contrast, Canada's redistribution process is relatively nonpartisan, permits large population variances among ridings, places more emphasis on community rights, and is seldom subject to extensive court challenges. Despite these differences, the two countries exhibit striking similarities in the overall level of visible minority representation relative to population share. Conversely, Canada's population inequalities among ridings create a systematic disadvantage for visible minorities. Political attention to visible minority representation is stronger in the US, but the means to achieve it are constrained both by the judicial limits on group representation and the constitutional limits on the use of racial identity. Canada has a framework for political representation that could easily accommodate significant visible minority representation but lacks the political imperative to use it, in part because doing so would run counter to Canada's multicultural image of these groups as immigrants rather than as non‐white minorities.
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, McGill University

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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