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21 Mar 2017 
Three years after recognizing a new cause of action for racial

redistricting in Shaw v. Reno,(1) the Supreme Court's voting rights

jurisprudence still teeters on the brink of legal incoherence and

political chaos. Concerned about the new extremes to which

self-interested redistricting has been taken in the 1990s--particularly,

but not exclusively, for racial purposes--the Court has been struggling

to articulate legal principles that might fix acceptable boundaries on

the power of politicians to define their constituencies.(2) But last

Term's unsurprising decisions striking down districts in North

Carolina and Texas,(3) like the previous Term's decision

invalidating a Georgia congressional district,(4) suggest that these

principles remain disturbingly elusive.(5) To be sure, some speculations

have been publicly confirmed, most notably that the five-member majority

crafting these new constitutional constraints is itself profoundly

fragmented.(6) Yet the precise extent to which election districts can be

designed to take race or ethnicity into account remains shrouded in a

doctrinal framework that provides scant practical guidance in the most

charged setting of all for identity and partisan politics.

The relationship of race to the construction of political

institutions is a prominent site in which themes of "Group Conflict

and the Constitution," the topic of this Symposium, are currently

being played out. In the redistricting arena, the Court now appears to

have settled on a doctrinal formula through which it will mediate this

particular form of group conflict. In each of the last two Term's

cases, the Court has consistently rehearsed this doctrinal principle:

Race cannot be "the predominant factor" in the drawing of

election district lines.(7) This approach to racial group conflict in

the political realm organizes constitutional inquiry around the

motivations of those who control the redistricting process.

This brief Essay seeks to make one narrowly targeted doctrinal

point: Whatever the merits of motive-based approaches to mediating group

conflicts in other constitutional contexts, in the redistricting arena

that approach will not be capable of sustaining constitutional doctrine

in a coherent, administrable, or useful form. This is not due to general

theoretical concerns about motive-based doctrines, but to pragmatic

reasons peculiar to the redistricting context. If the Court's

current project of imposing constitutional restraints on race and

redistricting is to be given principled legal content, it will have to

be through another approach. Toward the close of this Essay, I will

suggest the most likely alternative.

With respect to general problems of group conflict and the

Constitution, this Essay's discrete concerns might nonetheless

suggest a few broader implications. At the most general level, I will

argue that the Supreme Court's struggles stem from misguided

efforts to assimilate race-conscious districting to the constitutional

framework for other race-conscious government policies. The now reigning

approach to policing racial redistricting, the motive-based

"predominant factor" test, offers the allure of consistency

with other areas of constitutional law. By importing Washington v.

Davis(8) and City of Mobile v. Bolden(9) into redistricting, the Court

has cast the Shaw doctrine as continuous with established Fourteenth and

Fifteenth Amendment principles. But this portrait of continuity is an

illusion. At least in the area of race, constitutional problems of group

conflict cannot be approached effectively in universal terms. Contexts

in which issues of race-conscious policy arise turn out to differ in

pragmatic, but central, ways. Whatever the merits of more rigidly

"consistent" approaches in other institutional

arenas--approaches that argue for colorblindness or race-consciousness

in all-or-nothing terms--within the legal system, contextual variations

must be attended to if courts are to develop coherent, administrable

legal doctrines.

Thus, whether or not the intent standard of Davis is appropriate

for certain contexts, such as public employment, the effort to borrow

this standard for redistricting is fundamentally flawed. I will stress

three reasons that this is so, though others could be marshalled. First,

an intent standard is not properly linked at the conceptual level to the

nature of the constitutional harm that the Court's

racial-redistricting cases recognize. The injuries Shaw makes actionable

are expressive harms, as will be described later; such harms focus on

the social meaning of, and social perceptions about, government action,

rather than on individuated and more material harms to discrete

individuals. Once the role of these expressive harms in Shaw is

appreciated, the predominant motive test can be seen not to be a

coherent approach to implementing the decision's underlying theory.

Second, an intent standard emerges out of more conventional

individual-rights adjudication contexts. But Shaw is not best understood

as operating within an individual-rights model of the relevant harm.

Third, in the redistricting arena, the Davis approach will be

intractable at the practical level. Sensible doctrine in this area must

recognize that carving states into election districts differs in

essential ways from choosing one of two applicants for a particular job,

or awarding a public construction contract to one of two competing

firms, or granting a broadcasting license to one of two bidders. In

particular, race and partisan politics are too compounded in

redistricting to be separable through motive-based "predominant

factor" tests. Whatever precision such tests might have elsewhere,

in the redistricting context they can only dissolve into ritualistic,

vaporous incantations. Inevitably, this approach will lead to

disingenuous judicial decisions; courts simply are not likely to be able

or willing to apply such a standard faithfully. Indeed, this evasion of

artificial doctrinal formulas is already evident in the Supreme Court

itself: The Court has begun to decide cases in ways that cannot be

reconciled with a primary emphasis on ferreting out legislative


Doctrinal stumbling and confusion about race-conscious districting

poisons politics and culture in particularly pathological ways. Under

the best of circumstances, the drawing of election districts by

politicians is nasty, brutish, and anything but short. Adding race and

ethnicity makes the mix even more combustible. Unless the Court quickly

brings more principled legal ordering to the framework of racial

redistricting, political institutions will become the site for the most

divisive racial and ethnic confrontations seen in many years. Already in

the aftermath of the Court's recent decisions, several states have

become too politically paralyzed to redistrict at all; instead, they

have defaulted the task to federal courts.(11)

This Essay is directed primarily to courts struggling to implement

the Shaw doctrine. The approach here also differs from what might be

called "the ideological turn" that legal scholarship has taken

in recent years.(12) Increasingly, legal scholarship has merged into

fields like political theory and cultural critique as it has sought to

tease out the general systems of beliefs, assumptions, and structures of

values embedded within legal decisions. For some purposes, this work has

been immensely valuable; yet it necessarily downplays characteristic

qualities of legal decisionmaking and more internal styles of legal

analysis. Rather than focusing on the fine-grained distinctions between

cases and contexts that more conventional legal analysis stresses, for

example, ideological critique tends to see cases as raising fundamental

choices between competing, broad ideologies.(13) Rather than seeing

legal issues as arising amid specific institutional constraints and

within particular complexes of fact, ideological analyses tend to be

framed in terms of clashes between competing frameworks of values, often

conceived at high levels of abstraction. Because my aim is limited here

to the judicial implementation of Shaw, this Essay is more in the nature

of internal doctrinal critique. Thus I do not engage in the

"fundamental" debate that has preoccupied much academic

commentary on the decision: whether race-conscious districting, in the

extreme geographic forms Shaw condemns, ought to be constitutional. Much

of the response to Shaw has predictably, but unproductively, urged that

it be overruled.(14) Yet with five cases now decided in the last four

Terms, even dissenting Justices have recognized that "the Court

seems settled in its conclusion that racial gerrymandering claims such

as these may be pursued."(15) I take the principle of Shaw to be

settled, at least for now, and for implementation purposes seek to

understand the doctrine on its own terms.

Part I begins by explaining Shaw and then challenges prevalent

mythologies concerning racial redistricting and the Voting Rights Act

(VRA). I argue, for example, that certain familiar criticisms of Shaw

misunderstand both the history of the VRA and the present context of

redistricting. To address Shaw effectively requires understanding it as

a specific response to distinct developments in the voting arena.

Ironically, however, the specific means the Court invokes fail to

recognize what is distinct about the logic of voting rights. Thus Part

II seeks to demonstrate that the current "predominant motive"

test will necessarily fail as a means of implementing the values Shaw is

best understood to reflect. Finally, the Essay ends with suggestions on

how the realities of the entanglement between race and politics in

redistricting can be better recognized through an alternative approach

that provides more principled guidance in this highly charged arena.


Shaw and subsequent decisions hold that race-conscious election

districting will be subject to strict scrutiny and held unconstitutional

in certain specific circumstances. Questions abound at each stage of

this inquiry: (1) what precise triggering facts bring strict scrutiny

into play; (2) what state justifications are sufficiently compelling

once strict scrutiny is applied; and (3) what means are the most

narrowly tailored forms of districting once strict scrutiny is applied.

Although the same issues can arise under more than one of these

inquiries, this Essay focuses on the first question as the point of

greatest complexity in the current formulation of Shawl To begin

unpacking that aspect of Shaw, it is perhaps easiest to start with what

the decision does not hold regarding when strict scrutiny will be


Despite exaggerated claims from both critics and supporters,(16)

the Shaw doctrine is neither a broad attack on section 2 of the VRA nor

an assault on all intentional race-conscious districting. To be sure,

some Justices would subject all such districting to strict scrutiny;

some have gone further and intimated a willingness to hold the

"results" test of section 2 unconstitutional.(17) As an

institution, however, the Court has explicitly stated that Shaw reflects

a judicial effort to distinguish "appropriate and reasonably

necessary uses of race from its unjustified and excessive

uses."(18) The excessive use of race, not racial classification per

se, generates Shaw harms. That is the principle that critics and

supporters of Shaw should be contesting, not the role of race per se in

districting. It is also the principle to which courts implementing Shaw

must give content.

If race-consciousness per se is not harmful except when taken to

certain extremes, one may view Shaw as a judicial effort to draw the

highly contestable line that plagues all civil rights policies, the line

between (to use loaded terms) "nondiscrimination" and

"affirmative action." As difficult as this line is to define

in other contexts, it is even more difficult in the area of voting

rights. In contexts like employment policy, it is at least arguable in

theory that nondiscrimination can be achieved through the adoption of

employment practices that do not themselves require race-consciousness.

The VRA addresses the way public electoral structures respond to private

voting patterns; public law must first look to whether those patterns

reflect racially polarized voting, and then, because private voting

behavior cannot itself be directly regulated, reactive public

institutions can only respond by themselves adopting race-conscious

programs designed to countervail private race-conscious voting. That is

what the post-1982 VRA does.

As the Court appears to see it, race-consciousness in

redistricting is permissible to ensure evenhandedness; equal rights

means that minority voters have similar opportunities as majority voters

to elect "representatives of their choice." Section 2 of the

VRA bans vote dilution, and thus requires that districting be racially

evenhanded; but as the Court construes it, this process of

race-conscious districting is permissible when necessary to ensure equal

rights. When race-consciousness goes beyond this point, the shadow of

strict scrutiny falls. All this sounds tautological, of course. The

Court gives content to these principles by implicitly comparing what is

done when majority and minority districts are being created. When

majority-minority districts comply with traditional districting

principles, and are drawn to redress racially polarized voting, the

Court treats them as constitutionally appropriate because necessary to

secure evenhanded treatment. When race-conscious districting goes

further, by abandoning the principles typically used to draw other

districts, the Court treats race as having been singled out for

exceptionally preferential treatment. The Shaw Court can be understood,

then, as holding that when this point has been crossed, the VRA has been

illicitly transformed from a regime of "nondiscrimination" to

one of "affirmative action." Moreover, redistricting signals

this shift more visibly and publicly than other policies: The maps speak

for themselves (the frequency with which editorial page writers and

judges reprint them attests to this belief).(19)

Seen in this light, Shaw's concern with the "excessive

and unjustified" use of race can be seen as cousin to last

Term's decision in Romer v. Evans,(20) as well as other recent, but

less controversial, voting-rights cases.(21) The fact that

Colorado's Amendment 2 went beyond depriving homosexuals of

"special rights," and so broadly denied legal protections

"taken for granted by most people either because they already have

them or do not need them," led the Court to conclude both that the

Amendment failed the rational basis test and that it rested on an

impermissible animus.(22) Although Romer reaches a result liberals

applaud, and Shaw one that liberals deride, in both the Court's

legal conclusions implicitly require it along the way to give content to

the elusive line between "equal rights" and "special

preferences." Indeed, that distinction is now emerging as one of

the philosophical touchstones of the current Court's constitutional


To provide the factual matrix within which this distinction must

be assessed in the redistricting context, this Part seeks to undermine

several common mythologies prevalent in academic and popular critiques

of Shawl In previous work, I have addressed voting rights mythologies

typically associated with political conservatives.(23) Here, I note four

mythologies typically associated with critics of Shawl

A. Myth #1: Minority-Controlled Districts in the 1990s Are No More

Bizarre than Districts Traditionally Have Been

Some charge that the Supreme Court has become worried about

"bizarre" districts only now that such districts have emerged

to benefit racial and ethnic minorities.(24) In a literal sense, this is

true: Shaw does not condemn "extremely bizarre" districts

across the board, only those in which race can be viewed as having

played too dominant a role. Should politicians craft highly contorted

districts to protect incumbents, the Constitution would not be

implicated;(25) should politicians do so for partisan reasons, the

Constitution is only implicated in theory, not in practice.(26) Some

critics go so far as to view this as a "racial double

standard": Bizarre minority-majority districts are subject to

constitutional challenge, while bizarre white-majority districts are


In the redistricting context, at least, this rhetorically forceful

charge ignores dramatic recent developments evidenced in the 1990s round

of redistricting. For several reasons, the creation of bizarrely

configured districts exploded in the 1990s. Much of this development is

directly attributable to race-conscious districting. Even where it is

not, there is reason to believe that such districting indirectly

influenced the rise of bizarre districting through its effects on the

culture, as opposed to the formal law, of redistricting. To the extent

minority-controlled districts are far more extreme in shape than other

districts, or to the extent that the VRA and race-conscious districting

is a significant cause of whatever new extremes might be found in

white-majority districts, Shaw needs to be assessed as a response to

genuinely novel developments. The evidence does indeed establish that

this is the case.

One means of documenting these changes is to quantify the rise of

"highly bizarre" congressional districts in the 1990s. This

can be done through numerical techniques that assess district

shapes.(28) For purposes of Shaw, one relevant measure focuses on the

perimeter of districts, assaying the extent to which borders meander to

include selected voters. A second relevant measure focuses on the

dispersion of districts, testing how efficiently a district encompasses

its territory. Both measures start from the baseline of a circle as the

ideal district shape. At this stage, we need not ask the normative

question of what values reasonably compact districts might serve, nor

what the ideal baseline for assessing compactness ought to be. The aim

initially is to see whether we can identify significant recent changes

in districting practices before turning to the possible legal


Using these measures, I have compared the compactness of

congressional districts in the 1980s and 1990s on a state-by-state basis

as well as nationwide in the aggregate. The results are reproduced in

Appendix I. Nationwide, substantially more congressional districts in

the 1990s than in the 1980s can be considered "highly

bizarre."(29) With respect to district perimeters, taking an

arbitrarily selected threshold, there were only sixteen districts below

this level in the 1980s, while in the 1990s there were fifty

districts--more than three times as many. Similarly, using an arbitrary

threshold for the dispersion measure, there were twenty-five districts

in the 1980s spread out more diffusely than this level, while there were

forty in the 1990s. In other words, congressional districts became

dramatically more bizarre in the 1990s than they were in the 1980s.

Moreover, these aggregate nationwide data obscure even more remarkable

changes in states that created new minority congressional districts in

the 1990s. Using the perimeter measure, in North Carolina, the average

compactness of congressional districts fell a dramatic 70% in the 1990s;

in Louisiana, it fell 62%; in Texas, 50%; in Virginia, 43%; in Georgia,

35%. In four states, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas,

dispersion scores dropped at least 20%. In states with new minority

districts, therefore, the average compactness of all districts


This transformation in the pattern of districting can be

documented in another way. We can compare the frequency with which

political subdivisions, such as counties, cities, and towns, were

divided across multiple congressional districts in the 1990s compared to

the 1980s. From judicial findings and documents discovered in

litigation, Professor Timothy O'Rourke has collected such

information; the results parallel those in the compactness studies.(30)

In North Carolina, congressional lines had largely adhered to county

boundaries in preceding decades. In the 1980s plan, only four of the

state's hundred counties had been split. In the state's

original plan for the 1990s, subsequently invalidated in the Shaw

litigation, forty-four counties were split; indeed, seven counties were

fragmented into three congressional districts. Not only were counties

split, but "`a large number of divided precincts'" also

emerged in the 1990s.(31) In Texas, the 1990s redistricting plan, since

struck down, split thirty-five counties and more than 160 cities, while

the 1980s plan had fractured only ten counties. In Georgia, the 1980s

plan had divided three counties, while the 1990s plan, also invalidated,

split twenty-six counties. Yet another since-invalidated 1990s

redistricting plan, Louisiana's, fragmented twenty-eight of the

state's sixty-four parishes; that state's 1980s plan had

divided only seven parishes. Recent judicial findings from Virginia

reveal that that state's 1980s districting plan had split three

counties and two cities between districts; the 1990s plan divided eight

cities, all split by the one majority-black district (the Third

Congressional District) the state created in the 1990s.(32) Of the

seventeen localities comprising this district, eleven were split between

two congressional districts, with the borders closely tied to racial


To be sure, partisan aims have driven gerrymandering as long as

districted elections have existed, and on occasion, have generated

similar tactics.(34) And thus far, the available data enable relatively

easy systematic comparisons only of congressional districts between the

1980s and 1990s.(35) Nonetheless, it is clear that the 1990s have

witnessed a precipitous and systematic decline in the regularity of

congressional districts.

To what extent are the VRA and race-conscious districting

responsible for this proliferation of extreme district shapes? Appendix

II lists the twenty-eight most bizarrely shaped congressional districts

in the immediate aftermath of the 1990s redistricting; certain of these

districts were later judicially invalidated under Shawl Of these

twenty-eight districts, thirteen were minority-dominated districts. Of

the remaining fifteen, between five and eight shared substantial borders

with one of these contorted minority districts and were therefore

necessarily contorted as well. Of the remaining seven to ten districts,

two reflect the contorted geography of the unusual terrain they

encompass: District 36 in California is noncompact because it includes

two islands, and District 10 in Massachusetts includes Cape Cod and

nearby islands. Thus, as few as five and as many as eight of the

twenty-eight most bizarre districts were white districts neither mapping

onto contorted natural geography nor adjoining oddly shaped minority

districts.(36) Put another way, the direct effect of race-conscious

districting on the general pattern of declining compactness appears

quite substantial. But there is a more subtle and indirect way that the

VRA and racial redistricting in recent years might have contributed even

to those few extremely bizarre white-majority districts not adjoining

minority ones.

Although it would be difficult to prove conclusively, I suspect

that race-conscious districting has intersected in the 1990s with other

developments that together have brought about a general decline in tacit

constraints that previously constrained interest group politics,

including pursuit of partisan self-interest, during the intensely

political process of districting. Three factors changed during the 1980s

that account for this transformation: technology improved;

constitutional doctrine shifted in the reapportionment area; and

statutory obligations to avoid minority-vote dilution under the VRA were

substantially enhanced. Taken together, these factors have facilitated

gerrymandering on a new scale. In assessing Shaw, it is tempting to try

to isolate the distinct and direct contribution to the proliferation of

bizarre districts of recent race-conscious districting under the VRA.

After all, Shaw is not a comprehensive antigerrymandering doctrine; it

is directly targeted at racial gerrymandering alone. Thus if Shaw is to

be justified as a response to the general new context of redistricting,

it seems appropriate to ask how much the particular factor Shaw

addresses--race-conscious districting--has contributed to this general

phenomenon. Yet the effort to isolate the independent contribution of

each of the three new factors might well be mistaken. In practice, these

contributing factors are probably not independent, but synergistic. Each

has enhanced the role of the other in fostering more aggressive

gerrymandering in general.

For example, the statewide data in Appendix I are striking in that

every state in which perimeter or dispersion measures plunged

dramatically (including those involving far more pervasive splitting of

counties) had created at least one new minority district in the 1990s

under the pressure of the post-1982 VRA. Redistricting is ugly and nasty

precisely because, for political parties and incumbents, self-interest

and even survival is so strongly at stake. Given the incentives, the

question is why should any constraints check the process at all? My

speculation is that, like many public processes, redistricting was

structured not only by formal legal requirements regarding what is

permitted and prohibited, but also by a set of taken-for-granted

background cultural norms.(37) Collective understandings accepted on all

sides, some explicit, some tacit, constrained to some extent the

crassest forms of the pursuit of political self-interest. In some

states, such as North Carolina, there were strong presumptions against

dividing counties. In others, certain districts were so irregularly

shaped that were they proposed, they would immediately have been laughed

off the table.

Apart from its direct effects, the VRA in the 1980s might have

influenced this general culture of redistricting. Once it became

permissible to violate various traditional tacit norms such as

compactness to comply with the VRA, these tacit understandings might

have eroded more generally. Texas, for example, was aggressively and

successfully gerrymandered for partisan purposes in the 1990s, including

several extremely bizarre white districts whose contorted shapes were

not necessary to accommodate minority districts.(38) The VRA was not the

only source of attack on the tacit norms of the prior redistricting

culture. The sharp drop in general compactness in those states that

created new minority districts might reflect, in part, the indirect

effect of the VRA on these important, previously assumed

constraints.(39) Finally, as discussed later,(40) a new constitutional

doctrine created in the 1980s and technological advances also encouraged

and facilitated the recent rise of bizarre districts.

The principal point is that redistricting in the 1990s cannot be

portrayed as business as usual. Untangling the precise causal

contribution of the factors driving the radical decline in district

compactness is not easy, particularly if some of these factors are

interdependent. But the creation of safe minority districts certainly

played a significant direct role in these developments, and perhaps a

more subtle, indirect one as well. Shaw thus needs to be appraised as a

response to specific developments in redistricting in the 1990s. The

failure to do so renders critique unresponsive to concerns that might

motivate or justify Shaw.(41)

Thus it is true in constitutional theory (at least for the moment)

that bizarre districts can be drawn without constitutional concern for

groups not identifiable in racial terms--"farmers, or Republicans

in a Democratic region of the state, or gays, for that matter."(42)

In actual practice, such districts do not exist, certainly not in any

systematic pattern. While Shaw does formally single out race-conscious

districting for distinct constitutional treatment, then, the doctrine

more closely mirrors the actual political practices of current

districting than many critics acknowledge. That does not in itself, of

course, justify Shaw, but it should frame the terms in which Shaw is


B. Myth #2. The Court Is Effectively Overturning Carefully Considered

Congressional Policy Judgments Enacted in the VRA

Shaw is also sometimes criticized as inappropriate judicial

resistance to policy decisions previously, and more appropriately,

adopted in Congress.(43) On this view, the Department of Justice and

state redistricters are engaging in race-conscious districting that

Congress has required or authorized; Shaw is therefore tantamount to

judicial undermining of the VRA. To the extent that civil rights groups

won a hard-fought political struggle in the 1982 Amendments, the courts

should not interfere with, but rather ought defer to, these legislative

policy choices, particularly in such a charged political arena. In

effect, this critique portrays Shaw as directly colliding with the VRA

that Congress adopted.

This view, however, rests on a highly stylized and unrealistic

account of the 1982 Amendments. Courts and commentators often portray

statutes and legislative intent as if they resolve more than they do.

Once the veils of ritualized pieties about congressional intent are

pierced, it simply becomes implausible to claim that Congress enacted

and the President signed legislation that contemplated, let alone

required, the kind of race-conscious districting at issue in the Shaw

cases. I do not mean that Congress did not contemplate that the 1982

Amendments would require race-conscious districting; the fairest

inference from the legislative process is that Congress did understand

that some forms of race-conscious districting would be required. But it

is the kind of districting at issue in Shaw, the use of extremely

contorted districts that split counties, towns, and cities so freely,

that cannot be claimed to emanate from a deliberative national policy

choice. The method of interpreting statutes to imaginatively reconstruct

what the enacting legislature would have done with a question it did not

confront often cannot yield intelligible answers.(44) But if any answer

is plausible here, it is surely that Congress would have rejected any

assertion that the 1982 Amendments required the kind of extremely

bizarre race-conscious districting now at issue. Other justifications

for these districts might still be offered, but critics of Shaw cannot

credibly invoke a fictive legislative choice that, realistically, never

was made. A brief review of the legislative context in 1982 will reveal


First, the principal focal points of vote dilution litigation in

1982 were at-large and multimember election systems.(45) In this

context, a bloc-voting and hostile majority could maintain complete

domination of electoral politics through its ability to outvote a

vulnerable minority for each and every seat. Vote dilution was

tantamount to utter exclusion from political office holding and, most

likely, political influence.(46) The primary objective of litigation was

to force the restructuring of these systems into single-member districts

in which minorities would be able to control some number of seats. But

the emphasis was on how liability would be established when challenges

were brought to at-large and multimember systems. The major cases

Congress drew upon in 1982 all involved such challenges. Given this

priority, little attention was directed toward the question of precisely

how single-member districts would be designed once the remedial stage

was reached. Moreover, vote dilution challenges to the way districts

were arrayed within a single-member districting plan were still largely

problems for the coming years. Indeed, only in 1993 did the Supreme

Court finally hold that the doctrinal framework developed previously

would apply to dilution challenges to redistricting plans.(47) Precisely

how the concept of vote dilution would apply in this distinct context

was complex, uncertain, and hardly central, let alone on the agenda,

during the 1982 congressional debates. Whereas dilution in at-large and

multimember elections sought to replace one form of election with

another, challenges to single-member districting plans presented a vast

array of potential alternatives for laying out the pattern of districts.

And while dilution in at-large and multimember systems might be

tantamount to total exclusion, once elections took place through

individual districts, the questions of dilution and effective minority

influence became more subtle.(48)

The 1982 Amendments incorporated a "results" test into

section 2 of the VRA, which bars any voting practice that "results

in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United

States to vote," even without proof of discriminatory purpose.(49)

It is essentially this provision that the Department of Justice and

state redistricters, as well as critics of Shaw, invoke to claim that

the VRA required or supported the extremely bizarre race-conscious

districts at issue.(50) When Congress amended section 2 this way, we can

say for certain that Congress intended to reject the Supreme

Court's holding in Mobile v. golden. There, in a challenge to

at-large city council elections, the Court held that the Fifteenth

Amendment as well as the then-existing version of section 2 required

proof of discriminatory purpose. The decision provoked an immediate

outcry from voting rights lawyers and civil rights organizations; they

argued that the decision reversed Court precedents of the previous

decade and would bring vote dilution litigation to a halt.

In response, Congress did agree to make vote dilution litigation

easier and to reject Mobile. But what Congress understood itself to be

erecting in the place of Mobile--what it understood the

"results" test to mean--is far less certain. One possibility,

probably the best description of a plausible collective understanding to

attribute, is that Congress conceived itself to be restoring the

pre-Mobile judicial status quo. The Court's prior decisions,

primarily in Whitcomb v. Chavis(51) and White v. Regester,(52) defined

that prior legal status quo; Congress repeatedly described the

amendments as "codifying the leading pre-Bolden vote dilution

case[s]."(53) The problem, though, was that these earlier cases

themselves had not worked out a coherent conception of vote dilution.

Regester had employed two quite different theories to strike down

multimember districts in two different Texas counties,(54) while

Whitcomb had rejected a vote dilution challenge to a multimember Indiana

district in circumstances not easy to distinguish from those in Texas.

Given the political attractions of ambiguity(55) and shifting of

responsibility,(56) the very uncertainty of these cases, which

recognized that lines had to be drawn between permissible and

impermissible vote dilution claims but which left those lines murky,

perhaps made congressional incorporation-by-reference of the cases all

the more politically attractive.

A second plausible possibility is that Congress simply had no

clear conception in mind of what vote dilution or the

"results" test would mean. That is, Congress might well have

had neither a clear conceptual sense of vote dilution, nor a

well-developed practical understanding of what the results test would

mean in application. Remarkably, in light of the dramatic

transformations that section 2 would soon effect, there was little

substantive discussion of this aspect of the 1982 Amendments in the

House; debate there centered on other proposed amendments considered

more important and controversial.(57) Only in the Senate did sustained

and focused debate on the meaning of section 2 begin to emerge. Those

debates generate little confidence that supporters of the section 2

Amendments had a coherent conception of vote dilution in mind, certainly

not at the margins of vote dilution at which the Shaw problem arises.

Whether Congress had a consensus on the concept of vote dilution with

respect to single-member districts even in core or paradigmatic contexts

is not critical for present purposes. Even if it had, Congress surely

did not endorse and had no policy in mind at all concerning the

subsidiary questions at issue in Shaw: whether race-conscious districts

that departed in dramatic and highly visible ways from other districts,

such as being "extremely bizarre" in shape, were appropriate

or required to avoid illegal vote dilution.

On the general concept of vote dilution, all purported to agree

that section 2 would not require proportional representation along

racial lines. Yet when asked how a "results" test could mean

anything else, proponents referred to a vague "totality of the

circumstances" inquiry that prior cases were correctly said to have

adopted. When the Senate Report attempted to specify these

circumstances, it listed seven typical factors, suggested at least two

other additional factors, noted that in some cases yet "other

factors," left unspecified, would be relevant, and then observed

that "there is no requirement that any particular number of factors

be proved, or that a majority of them point one way or the

other."(58) A statutory standard that relies on the "totality

of the circumstances" and a laundry list of potentially relevant

factors often signals the absence of clear consensus on the core concept

involved. Moreover, in practice, courts applying such a standard will

almost inevitably gravitate toward one of two alternatives: distilling

this range of factors into a few deemed most essential to enable more

rule-like implementation of the standard, or invoking different factors

in different cases in a necessarily more ad hoc approach. The Supreme

Court, as discussed in a moment, almost immediately opted for the


The critical theme here is that the starting point of the section

2 amendments, the "results" test, was from its inception

unusually cloudy. This test was even less clear for challenges to

single-member districting plans than for at-large and multimember

elections. The legislative history that would confirm this cannot be

recounted in detail here, but to get a sense of its tenor, consider the

following typical colloquy in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing,

where most of the section 2 discussion took place. The exchange is

between a Republican supporter of amended section 2, Senator Charles

Mathias of Maryland, and a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee chair and a

skeptic, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah:

SENATOR MATHIAS: The purpose of this bill is to provide for fair

and just access to the electoral process.

SENATOR HATCH: Is [it] the most fair and just means to achieve

access--if 55 percent of Baltimore is black then 55 percent ought to be

black majority districts?

SENATOR MATHIAS: A fair and just operation of the electoral

process is to give all citizens equal access to vote, run, or otherwise

participate in the process.

SENATOR HATCH: What does "equal access" mean, Senator


SENATOR MATHIAS: You are well aware of what it means.

SENATOR HATCH: I want to know what you think it means, because I

know what it means under the effects test in section 5. I think it

means, as does the Attorney General of the United States, proportional


SENATOR MATHIAS: You look at the totality of circumstances; that

is what we have been doing.

SENATOR HATCH: That is what we do under the intents standard.

. . .

. . . I am quite confused as to the relevance of the circumstances

that you are considering in their totality.

. . .

I do not understand what the question is that the court asks

itself in evaluating the totality of circumstances under the results

test. What precisely does the court ask itself after it has looked at

the totality of the circumstances? What is the standard for evaluation

under the results test?

SENATOR MATHIAS: Look at the results.

SENATOR HATCH: That is all? You are saying that if there was

absolutely no intent to discriminate, as the Court found in the Mobile

case, yet the results were the election of disproportionately few

minority candidates, that a case would be established?(59)

This brief excursus into the congressional history of section 2

returns us to the Court's effort to maintain what it seems to view

as the distinction between "nondiscrimination" and

"affirmative action" in VRA enforcement. One way to reflect on

the Court's concern is to set it in the broader context of the

history of civil rights policymaking. As policymaking in this arena has

matured, this distinction has paradoxically become increasingly

important yet increasingly blurred. The distinction appears important to

public support for civil rights; support for policies that can be framed

as "nondiscrimination" ones has always been higher than for

those characterized as affirmative action.(60) Scholars have recently

argued that the lesson of thirty years of civil rights enforcement is

that institutional dynamics make it difficult for administering agencies

to maintain this distinction. Thus, John Skrentny has recently asserted

that the pressures of "administrative pragmatism"(61) almost

immediately channelled the enforcement of Title VII toward more

extensive race-consciousness and an emphasis on bottom-line numbers than

its original proponents would have endorsed.(62) In his account,

internal administrative forces pressed policy in this direction long

before political pressures or ideological justifications for affirmative

action arose publicly.(63)

Other scholars have argued that the distinction between

nondiscrimination and affirmative action is itself not conceptually

coherent,(64) or that with the institutionalization of affirmative

action, regulatory capture has become as prevalent a phenomenon as

traditional economic regulation.(65) On this view, enforcement entities,

public and private, became dominated by the programs' strongest

advocates; beneficiary groups are the most effectively mobilized to

press their interests; and iron triangles form between administrators,

those who stand to gain most, and political supporters. Conceptually,

politically, and administratively, the pressures on the boundary between

nondiscrimination and affirmative action are powerful. Yet at the same

time, rising skepticism that this line would or could be maintained

became one factor in a backlash against support for the equal rights

model itself.(66)

In the voting rights context, one interpretation of

nondiscrimination would be that minorities should be descriptively

represented in politics in numbers roughly proportional to their

population; this is an outcome-oriented reading that focuses on

bottom-line numbers.(67) An alternative reading is more

process-oriented: Minorities are legally entitled to an evenhanded

districting process, but not to districts drawn according to special

principles not generally applicable. It is important to recognize that

this tension has arisen only recently in the VRA field, as the force of

litigation shifted from dismantling at-large and multimember election

systems to challenging the distribution of single-member districts

within a districting plan.(68)

Shaw reflects the Court's adoption of one interpretation of

nondiscrimination in voting and the Court's conception of itself as

the appropriate institution for limiting race-consciousness in

districting to this point. Substantively, the Court has rejected the

outcome-oriented interpretation of equal rights in redistricting.

Institutionally, does the Court's willingness to embrace this role

reflect the view that political and administrative institutions have

proven over the thirty years of civil rights enforcement unable or

unwilling to play this role? When Congress made vote dilution illegal in

1982, it took no responsibility to give dilution very specific or

coherent content. As bizarre districts flowered in the 1990s, the

Department of Justice disclaimed any role in enforcing any general norms

of redistricting;(69) as long as more minority districts were created,

the Department would not object. Indeed, critics charged the Department

itself with being the principal force steering the VRA toward a

maximization requirement.

In sum, the 1982 Congress cannot realistically be viewed as having

determined that extremely bizarre minority-controlled districts were

appropriate or required to enhance minority representation. Less

expansive understandings of vote dilution and nondiscrimination in

voting were controversial at the time and the context of Shaw was far

off the horizon. Whether Shaw is right or not, criticism that the Court

is overturning carefully considered congressional judgments is

unpersuasive. Shaw is better debated in terms of the substantive issues

its approach raises, rather than in terms of whether it is consistent

with an imagined congressional policy choice.

C. Myth #3: Shaw Is to the 1990s What Plessy v. Ferguson Was to

the 1890s

The rhetoric used in critiquing Shaw has at times been stunningly

inflammatory. Some critics directly equate Shaw with Plessy v.

Ferguson,(70) but if that were not enough, others have gone even

further: "Five Supreme Court justices have done to

African-Americans in Louisiana what no hooded Ku Klux Klan mobs were

able to do in the decade-remove an African-American from

Congress."(71) Perhaps this rhetoric reflects what Mark Kelman has

recently suggested is characteristic of current forms of identity

politics: "[D]emands will not readily be modulated because, unlike

traditional pluralist `interest' group demands, each group

represents not just one of an individual's many, often conflicting,

material interests, but instead represents a critical aspect of her

identity."(72) In such a politics, any loss, whatever the

justification, is tantamount both to complete loss and to all other

earlier losses, whatever their justifications.

To step back a bit from the moment's turbulent ideological

struggles, it is helpful to situate Shaw within the judicial history of

these issues. The pre-history of Shaw has largely been lost in the

polarized debates of the present, but it will no doubt surprise some to

discover that, from the start of the Court's encounter with

inclusionary race-conscious districting in the 1960s, many Justices have

viewed this mix of race and democratic institutions with profound

disquiet. Indeed, three of the Court's "liberal"

icons-Justices Douglas, Goldberg, and Brennan-expressed positions not so

different from those in today's Shaw decisions. These three

Justices viewed race-conscious districting either as unconstitutional in

all circumstances, a position far more extreme than Justice

O'Connor's today; as unconstitutional in circumstances

comparable to those in Shaw itself; or, at a minimum, as raising

profound and troubling constitutional questions.

In Wright v. Rockefeller,(73) an ethnically and racially mixed

group of plaintiffs alleged that New York's congressional districts

in the 1960s had "`segregate[d] eligible voters by race and place

of origin"'(74) for the purpose of creating a safe Harlem

district that black and Puerto Rican residents would dominate. A

majority of the special three-judge federal court agreed with a version

of the theory Shaw adopted over thirty years later.(75) Judge Feinberg,

then a district judge and later a respected figure on the Second

Circuit, concluded that the Constitution would be violated if plaintiffs

could prove that the districts' lines had been drawn on a racial

basis. In his view, there was no need to prove vote dilution, because

"racially drawn districts per se would also violate the Equal

Protection clause."(76) Judge Murphy agreed that "plaintiffs

are not required to prove any diminution or dilution of their voting

rights . . . once they show that the district lines were constituted on

a racial basis."`(77) They differed over whether sufficient

evidence had been presented of racial/ethnic design for the districts.

Had Judge Feinberg found the evidence any stronger, this three-judge

federal court in the Second Circuit might have invalidated a

congressional district on a Shaw-like theory thirty years before


The Supreme Court circumvented the profound constitutional

questions presented on the same narrow and questionable grounds upon

which Judge Feinberg relied. Because plaintiffs had not presented any

direct proof of legislative intent to engage in race-conscious

districting, but had only offered as evidence the shapes of the

districts and their demographic patterns, the Court concluded that the

plaintiffs had not met their burden of establishing an intent to use

race and ethnicity in drawing the districts.(79) It did so despite the

extreme disparities in ethnic populations among adjoining districts and

the way the districts' contorted pattern of twists and turns

managed to include and exclude the relevant racial and ethnic

populations. Through this form of "judicial minimalism,"(80)

the Court managed to avoid confronting the constitutional question

plaintiffs had attempted to put squarely before the Court.

In dissent, Justice Douglas made clear his view that

"[r]acial boroughs are also at war with democratic

standards."(81) Justice Douglas did not take the fanciful view that

the Constitution required multiracial election districts; he saw no

violation in one racial group's dominating a district (as one

necessarily must) as long as such districts reflected genuine

neighborhoods. But when a district's architecture could "be

explained only in racial terms," Justice Douglas recoiled:

Racial electoral registers, like religious ones, have no place

in a

society that honors the Lincoln tradition--"of the people, by


people, for the people." Here the individual is important,

not his race,

his creed, or his color. The principle of equality is at war with


notion that District A must be represented by a Negro, as it is


the notion that District B must be represented by a Caucasian,


C by a Jew, District D by a Catholic, and so on. The racial


register system weights votes along one racial line more heavily


it does other votes That system, by whatever name it is called, is


divisive force in a community, emphasizing differences between

candidates and voters that are irrelevant in the constitutional

sense. Of

course race, like religion, plays an important role in the choices


individual voters make from among various candidates. But

government has no business designing electoral districts along


or religious lines . . .

When racial or religious lines are drawn by the State, the

multiracial, multireligious communities that our Constitution

seeks to

weld together as one become separatist; antagonisms that relate to

race or to religion rather than to political issues are generated;

communities seek not the best representative but the best racial


religious partisan. Since that system is at war with the


ideal, it should find no footing here.(82)

In the same case, Justice Goldberg, also dissenting, endorsed the

position that because "racial segregation was a criterion in--or a

purpose of--the districting of [an area]," the Equal Protection

Clause had been violated.(83) This is an even more demanding motive

standard than the one Shaw and its progeny adopt. The Court now holds

that race may be a criterion in or a purpose of districting, as long as

it does not become "the predominant factor."(84)

Consider also the words, of Justice Brennan, in his exquisitely

difficult struggle with race-conscious districting in United Jewish

Organizations v. Carey.(85) Justice Brennan distanced himself from a

plurality opinion that legitimated race-conscious districting without

regard to the legal basis upon which the architects of the redistricting

had based their decisions. In contrast, Justice Brennan was prepared to

accept such districting only when section 5 of the VRA required it as a

remedial response. In those circumstances, Justice Brennan argued,

Congress had weighed the reasons for and against race-consciousness,

while the Department of Justice would also actively be monitoring the

justifications for the use of race and the scope of its use. In those

specific circumstances, Justice Brennan argued, the use of race-oriented

remedies traced back to "substantial and careful

deliberations" in Congress, leading to "an unequivocal and

well-defined congressional consensus" that the reasons for and

against race-conscious voting systems justified "an activist

race-conscious remedial role."(86) But beyond where specifically

licensed through section 5 of the VRA, race-conscious districting raised

concerns too troubling for Justice Brennan to endorse. Thus, unlike the

plurality, he refused to reach the question of whether the Constitution

permitted race-conscious redistricting where section 5 did not require

it. In justifying this caution, Justice Brennan observed that

race-conscious districting had "the potential for reinvigorating

racial partisanship";(87) raised "serious questions of

fairness";(88) and contained "the potential for arousing race

consciousness."(89) Moreover, Justice Brennan warned, "we

cannot well ignore the social reality that even a benign policy of

assignment by race is viewed as unjust by many in our society" and

creates the "impression of injustice."(90)

Recalling the views of these earlier judges, many of whom occupy

the pantheon of judicial liberalism and constitutional racial

egalitarianism, might bring some perspective to charges that Shaw is the

Plessy of our time. Principles can change, of course, as judges and

others learn more about the complexity and intractability of social

problems.(91) The fact that judges from the 1960s until the 1980s

expressed constitutional understandings similar to those in Shaw does

not make those understandings right; it does not even establish that

those same judges would hold the same constitutional views today. But

Shaw has polarized the current Court along preexisting cleavages

conventionally identified in politically conservative and liberal terms,

and these divisions encourage casting Shaw as the site of clashing

ideological positions of profound difference. Recovering the historical

pattern of continual judicial concerns with race-conscious districting,

which led Justices Douglas and Goldberg to take an even more aggressive

position than Shaw itself adopts, offers a useful reminder that the mix

of race and politics at issue in Shaw has troubled many judges and

Justices, not just the five Justices who make up the current Shaw

majority.(92) There is no inherent normative authority in numbers, but

perhaps seeing the points of continuity between Shaw and prior judicial

views will facilitate more tempered analysis and debate. The suggestion

that Shaw and Plessy are kindred cases undermines serious and credible

analysis of contemporary racial redistricting.

D. Myth #4: Absent Vote Dilution, No Meaningful Harms Can Follow from

the Use of Extremely Bizarre Districting to Enhance Minority


A fourth criticism of Shaw starts from two factually accurate

premises: (1) that certain minority groups, which the VRA protects, are

underrepresented in typical legislative bodies compared to their

proportion of the population (either voting-age or total population);

and (2) that racially polarized voting continues to be prevalent,

particularly in the South.(93) Therefore, this argument continues, we

ought to modify territorial districting to any extent necessary to bring

about more racially and ethnically proportional representation.

Note several initial assumptions behind this view. First, it

assumes that fair districting and color-blind voting would produce

minority political representation roughly proportional to population.

But this might be too simple. Districting itself makes proportional

representation of various sorts unlikely along almost any single axis

(party, race, religion) unless the relevant divisions perfectly map onto

the geographic units that form the basis for districting. Second, the

ideological preferences of black voters are not distributed randomly;

black voters tend to be considerably more liberal than white voters and

cluster at one end of the distribution of political preferences.(94)

Whatever weight these two factors, and perhaps others, ultimately ought

to carry, they need to be taken into account in constructing an

appropriate baseline of "racially fair" representation.(95)

Second, arguments about proportional minority representation implicitly

emphasize "descriptive representation,"(96) or a

"politics of presence";(97) the argument assumes that our

primary concern should be with whether a sufficient number of

officeholders physically mirror the electorate. Public policy might

instead put primary emphasis on "substantive representation"

of minority interests, that is, whether the policies minorities favor

are "adequately" given voice, pursued, and adopted. While

descriptive representation might in theory enhance the likelihood of

substantive representation,(98) as a practical matter in the American

redistricting context, more proportional descriptive representation

might be achievable only at the weighty cost of declining substantive


For now, however, assume that descriptive representation ideally

Admin · 29 vistas · Escribir un comentario
06 Feb. 2017 
If you are planning to put your house on the market this summer, it goes without saying that you are hoping to sell your home as quickly as short sale example possible and get your asking price. Set the stage for success with these 21 tips for styling and upgrading your home, and see results -- fast.

1. Boost curb appeal. This is something you always hear, and with very good reason. Many people thinking of touring your home will do a quick drive-by first, often deciding on the spot if it is even worth a look inside. Make sure your home is ready to lure in onlookers with these tips:

Power wash siding and walkways

Hang easy-to-read house numbers

Plant blooming flowers and fresh greenery

Mow lawn, and reseed or add fresh sod as needed

Wash front windows

Repaint or stain the porch floor as needed

2. Welcome visitors with an inviting porch. Even if you have only a tiny stoop, make it say "welcome home" with a clean doormat, potted plants in bloom and -- if you have room -- one or two pieces of neat porch furniture. Keep your porch lights on in the evenings, in case potential buyers drive by. Illuminating the front walk with solar lights is a nice extra touch, especially if you will be showing the house during the evening.

3. Get your house sparkling clean. From shining floors and gleaming local real estate agent reviews windows to clean counters and scrubbed grout, every surface should sparkle. This is the easiest (well, maybe not easiest, but certainly the cheapest) way to help your home put its best foot forward. You may want to hire pros to do some of the really tough stuff, especially if you have a large house. Don't skimp -- this step is key!

4. Clear away all clutter. If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story. It's not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative's garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble. Clean and clear surfaces, floors, cupboards and closets equal more space in the eyes of potential buyers, so purge anything unnecessary or unsightly.

But it's my style! Guess what? It may not be the style of those seeking to buy a house in your neighborhood. So even if you have an awesome vintage-chic look going on, rein it in for the sake of appealing to the most number of people. You can bring your personal style back into play in your new home.

5. Strike a balance between clean and lived-in. Yes, I know I just said to get rid of all your clutter (and you deserve a big pat on the back if you did it), but now it's time to judiciously bring back a few elements that will really make your home appealing. Think vases of cut flowers, a basket of fresh farmer's market produce on the kitchen counter or a bowl of lemons beside the short sale example sink.

6. Style your dining room table. The dining room is often a blind spot in decorating the home. Between dinners, a large dining table can look bare and uninviting, so styling it up with visitors in mind can increase the appeal. An oversize arrangement can look too stiff and formal, so try lining up a series of smaller vessels down the center of the table instead.

7. Take a good look at your floors. At the bare minimum, give all floors a thorough cleaning (and steam clean carpets), but consider having wood floors refinished if they are in poor shape. If you don't want to invest in refinishing floors, the strategic placement of area rugs can go a long way.

8. Rearrange your furniture. In the living room, symmetrical arrangements usually work well. Pull your furniture off the walls and use pairs (of sofas, chairs, lamps) to create an inviting conversation area.

9. Choose sophisticated neutral colors. Now is not the time to experiment with that "fun"-looking lime green. But that doesn't mean you need to go all white, either. Rich midtone neutrals like mocha and "greige" create a sophisticated backdrop that makes everything look more pulled together.

10. Create a gender-neutral master bedroom. Appeal to everyone with a clean, tailored master bedroom, free of personal items and clutter. You can't go wrong with clean, crisp linens, tasteful artwork and a blanket folded at the foot of the bed.

11. Open those closets! Open-house visitors will peek inside your closets. Closet space can be a make-it-or-break-it selling point for buyers, so show yours off to their full advantage by giving excess stuff the heave-ho. Again, this is really important, so even if you need to store a few boxes elsewhere, it's worth it. Aim to have 20 to 30 percent open space in each closet to give the impression of spaciousness.

12. Clean up toys. Of course there will be families with children looking at your home, but just because they have kids too doesn't mean seeing toys strewn everywhere will sell them on the place. When people are house hunting, they are imagining a fresh start. Show them that in this house, it is possible to have a beautifully organized kids' room, and they might be swayed.

13. Use "extra" rooms wisely. If you have been using a spare bedroom as a dumping ground for odd pieces of furniture and boxes of junk, it's time to clean up your act. Each room should have a clearly defined purpose, so think about what potential buyers might like to see here. An office? A guest room? Another kids' room? Whether you buy inexpensive furnishings, rent them, or borrow some from friends, making a real room out of a junk room will have a big payoff.

14. Try a pedestal sink to maximize space. If you have a small bathroom but a huge cabinet-style sink, consider swapping it out for a simple pedestal version. Your bathroom will appear instantly bigger.

15. Use only perfect personal accents. Especially in the bathroom, it is important that anything left out for visitors to see is pristine. If you have a gorgeous fluffy white bathrobe, hanging it on a decorative hook on the door can be an attractive accent -- but if your robe is more of the nubby blue floral variety, you might want to hide it away. Look at every detail with a visitor's eye -- bars of soap should be fresh and clean, towels spotless, the garbage always emptied (you get the idea).

16. Entice people to explore the whole house. By placing something that draws the eye at the top of the stairs, in hallways or in corners, you can pique curiosity and keep potential buyers interested throughout a whole home tour. A piece of artwork, a painted accent wall, a window seat, a vase of flowers, a hanging light or even a small, colorful rug can all work to draw the eye.

17. Show how you can use awkward areas. If you have any room beneath the stairs, or a nook or alcove anywhere in your home, try to find a unique way to show it off. By setting up a small work station, a home command center with a bulletin board, or built-in shelving, your awkward spot becomes another selling point.

18. Beware pet odors. Really, this can be a big one! If you have pets, get all rugs steam cleaned and be extra vigilant about vacuuming and washing surfaces. Also be sure to keep any extra-loved pet toys and doggie bones hidden when tours are scheduled.

19. Create a lifestyle people are looking for. Generally speaking, you want to play up what your neighborhood or area is known for. Have a house in a quiet, grassy suburb? Hanging a hammock in your backyard and a bench swing on your porch could be the perfect touch.

20. Stage the outdoors too. Even if your condo has only a teensy postage stamp-size balcony, play it up with a cute cafe table and chairs, a cheerful tablecloth and even a little tray of dishes or a vase of flowers. When people look at this scene, they won't be thinking "small," they will be thinking, "What a charming spot to have breakfast!"

21. Think seasonally. Make sure your garden is in beautiful shape in the summer, and that any extra features you have, like a pool or a fire pit, are cleaned and ready to go. Take advantage of the cozy vibe of the season in autumn and winter, by building a fire in the fireplace and simmering hot apple cider on the stove.


Laura Gaskill: You can find Gaskill on her blog Lolalina (, where she shares inspiring interiors, design finds, cute baby pictures, and updates on her own progress in decorating her first house.

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Admin · 36 vistas · Escribir un comentario
31 Dic 2016 
Here is my presentation for 101 of the best Home Improvement & DIY Blogs updated for 2014.

I first published this list over a year ago, and a lot has changed during that time. Unfortunately a few of my favorite blogs are no longer being updated, but on the bright side there are a few good ones that have captured my attention since then and are now included below.

Charles & Hudson - These guys have been recognized by a large number of bloggers and journalists as having one of the best home improvement blogs. They were at Number 1 on this list when I first published it, and I've kept them at Number 1 again this year!

Bob Vila - he's the self proclaimed "Dean of Home Renovation & Repair Advice" and once you visit his blog you'll probably agree. He gets an "A" from me and remains at Number 2 here for the second year in a row.

Ask The Builder - Tim's blog is a fantastic resource which is home to of the best advice for home improvement projects on the web, and it's so good that this year I've bumped it up to number 3 from 14 last year. Why don't I let Tim tell you about his blog himself:

The Ugly Duckling House - Sarah takes you on a humor infused journey as she remodels a house she bought at the end of 2009. It's an entertaining read and I thoroughly recommend you click on over!

Remodelaholic - Justin and Cassity are a couple who say their ideal date is "ripping out a wall!" It's a great blog, but they're taking this way too seriously and I feel they need to step back and smell the coffee, after-all there are more important things in life - like Powertools!

Young House Love - Sherry and John are a young couple from Richmond, Virginia who write this blog as a DIY diary and the provide excellent photographs of their remodeling work around their home.

Pretty Handy Girl - Brittany demonstrates to anyone who still has old ideas about women and power tools not going together that they're simply wrong, and she does a great job of explaining "How to"... do pretty much every DIY home project worth doing.

DIY Diva - Kit describes herself as an experienced DIYer, power tool junkie, and novice farmer. Her blog is all about bridging the gap between woman and powertool wielding badass!

Building Moxie - a really good source of home improvement and maintenance information. Some of their articles have original videos as well as photographs to help you understand how to do the projects begin discussed.

Living Vintage - Kim does a wonderful job of writing about the projects her company works on to "save old houses" using reclaimed materials - the blog is also wonderfully illustrated with photographs showing detailed steps of how an old piece of building material becomes a terrific new feature in a home.

Sawdust Girl - Sandra is seriously passionate about design, remodeling and carpentry. She provides some great posts detailing varies home improvement projects she's done.

You Grow Girl - for over 14 years Gayla Trail has been providing some brilliant information on urban gardening in limited spaces - she has updated the design of her blog since I first published this list and her blog posts just keep getting better - she deserved to move up a few places this year.

Shelterrific - Angela Matusik started her blog dedicated to 'home loving' way back in March 2006 and it's been getting stronger ever since.

Dans le Townhouse - a self confessed addict of renovating, decorating, crafting, and thrifting, Tanya is now blogging about all the home improvement and DIY projects she and her husband doing on their new lakefront bungalow they moved into in January 2014 - you can still see all their posts about projects from their old townhouse too.

The Kitchen Designer - Susan Serra is an accomplished kitchen designer who approaches her work with the philosophy that all 5 senses are at work in your kitchen. She blogs about much more than just kitchens, with inspirational design ideas about all areas of the home, and I'm really happy to have discovered this one so I could include it for the first time this year.

inhabitat - a great place to keep up to date with innovations in technology that allow for green design in furniture, energy, landscaping, architecture, and much more.

The Tiny Professional - Felicia documents her renovation adventures along with fashion posts and her experiences of competing in Pageants.

Vintage Revivals - Mandi writes up each project with a complete tutorial so you can recreate it yourself. I particularly like her "Room Reveals" section where she shows off before and after pics of some of her projects.

It's Great To Be Home - Liz is a serial home improver with a long house remodeling ideas for small homes history of buying, improving, and flipping homes with her husband Jason.

Green Living Ideas - director Andrea Devon Bertoli does a fantastic job of writing and sourcing great articles that provide you with actionable ideas to help make your home and lifestyle more sustainable.

If you're looking for information about Smart Homes then check out my list of

Smart Home Blogs.

The Happy Home Blog - Belinda confesses to being obsessed with interiors, renovating, decorating and also craft. Her blog details the never ending process of improving her home and making it a happy one for herself and her family.

Funky Junk Interiors - Donna's blog is a wonderful story of how she started over and furnished her home with nothing - and now she shares her outlandish, unique, ultra affordable creations on her blog.

The Art of Doing Stuff - Karen is a serious DIYer who has been featured in Style at Home magazine and has a range of interesting posts about home improvements & DIY projects.

Handyguys Podcast - you don't have to be a guy to visit their blog - but you do have to be interested in rational, factual ideas and product comparisons you can use around the home.

Casa Decrepit - the story of a couple who bought an 1876 built house which they have been restoring. They go into quite a lot of detail including posts about suppliers who don't do what they promised. I say this is required reading for anyone who is planing a restoration project.

Remodelista - This is probably one of the most famous blogs in Home Improvement - do yourself a favor and visit now.

The World According to Jessica Claire - a great Canadian home decor blog with detailed posts about the decorating work Jessica has been doing around her own home.

Fix It Chick - Allison Kohmann presents a wide range of simple and easy techniques for home improvement, DIY projects and design ideas that you can do yourself.

House Tweaking - follow Dana and her family as they renovate a dilapidated 1950's ranch that they bought and moved into. Dana has a great eye for photography which makes her posts that much more interesting.

Houzz - Definitely at the corporate end of things rather than your typical 'home-grown' blog, but thy really do have everything you need to improve your home from start to finish including over 3 Million photographs to help inspire your next redecorating or remodeling project.

Spaceio - There are many great interior design ideas here along with reviews of designers, architects, and contractors. I particularly like the way they showcase up-and-coming interior designers.

Brooklyn Limestone - this blog began life as a way for Stefanie to chronicle the process of renovating their 100+ year old limestone home in Brooklyn, NY. It has since grown and now has many posts about DIY projects and renovating.

Chezerbey - this blog was originally created in 2006 for this couple to share with family and friends their adventures as they remodeled their home which they named Chezerbey. The blog has grown into much more as their family has grown, and it has some great blog posts with pictures showing you all the wonderful upgrades they make to their home.

Rambling Renovators - Jennifer Flores does a great job of blogging aboot the projects she and her husband do to renovate their semi-detached Toronto home. Her philosophy is "The difference is in the details, and the details make all the difference."

Our Adventures in Home Improvement - Pam does an entertaining job of describing the projects she and her husband work on around their house.

DIY On The Cheap - frugal decorating ideas, crafts and creative projects for the home. Erin believes that a beautiful home doesn't have to break the bank, and her wonderfully illustrated projects will show you how to do the same.

Hewn and Hammered - these guys have been doing an amazing job since 2004, and as you'd expect by the name, it covers a lot of wood based projects.

Hannah Kate Flora - Hannah says she is a "Modern Traditionalist" who blogs about DIY and Interior Design.

Red Door Home - no hint of painting it black here, but rather full of creative inspiration for your home. Stacy even has her own Etsy store featuring her own craft work.

The Designer Pad - Eduardo is a former fashion designer turned interior designer. He believes everything has its place in the home. Decor - Inspiration - Interiors and a whole lot more in fine style.

DIY Show Off - Roeshel loves to blog about DIY and re-purposing projects with step-by-step photographs to help you understand the process for your own projects.

Fun & VJs - a professional writer blogs about all things design and house related. It began as a chronicle of their 1928 Queenslander home renovations and is now all about restoring a modernist home..

The Inspired Room - a decor focused blog all about simple and doable ideas for your home without breaking your budget and includes a great series of blog posts about how to decorate.

Bower Power - a lot more than 24 hours worth of great home improvement ideas, Katie does a fantastic job of cataloging all her home improvement and DIY projects.

Modern Country - about living the dream of living in the Norwegian countryside in a nostalgic old house decorated with a mixture of the Nordic light and rural rustic French styles.

Build Blog - a lot of great posts and photographs about architecture and design which are worth looking through for both inspiration and learning more about the build process.

Centsational Girl - Kate is a bargain hunter, design lover, incurable DIYer who will help you transform drab into fab for less.

Pure Style Home - Lauren Liess shares her thoughts on design, running a design business, clients' projects, how-tos, and the projects she and her family do in their own home.

Honey & Fitz - Dina chronicles her DIY projects, flea market finds, love of organization and general obsession with designing spaces for children and busy families..

Making This Home - Katie's blogging philosophy is "DIY inspiration that's rooted in the heart."

decor8 - Holly Becker is an award winning and diy home renovation on a budget best selling author and journalist, and this is her own blog where she writes about a range of topics including providing some great decor ideas.

AM Colce Vita - Michelle loves to design and decorate - her blog focuses on decor.

Today's Homeowner - Danny Lipford's blog with heaps of good posts as well as content from the TV and Radio shows he presents.

Simply The Nest - Alice blogs about life in South Manchester, England, and the process of restoring their semi-detached Victorian villa to its former glory when it was originally built in 1875.

Curbly - a community blog with a lot a great contributions on home improvement ideas and projects with some really good contributors like JoAnn Moser, Matt Allison, and Brittni Mehlhoff.

The Happy Homebodies - Jordan and her husband Scott love their blogging hobby and it really shows through in this wonderful collection of posts about their home projects as well as their DIY tutorials.

Seventh House On The Left - Greg & Ashley Brown blog about their own home improvement experiences.

DIY Home Staging Tips - all about the things you can to to improve your home in preparation for selling it.

Manhattan Nest - Daniel Kanter is a freelance interior decorator and his skills really show through in his posts about his Brooklyn apparment and the Kinston, NY fixer-upper that Daniel and his fiancé are renovating.

Hammer & Moxie - Peter and Leslie are a newly married couple who have started a blog cataloging their DIY (mis)adventures and the many moments in between.

Retro Renovation - it's all about renovating in 1940's through 1960s styles, or as they prefer to call it, "Mid Century".

Marley & Lockyer - a blog from Tasmania (you know - that island down under down under) about styling, gorgeous homes, and the renovation of the author Ness's own 1883 built home.

Everything LEB - Lindsay loves all things interior design, DIY and Martha Stewart, although she doesn't provide stock tips on her blog :)

Elise Blaha - Elise loves writing and making stuff.

Apartment Therapy - their motto is "We're saving the world, one room at a time".

Love & Renovations - Amanda and Corey blog about life and the process of turning their 1980's builder-grade home into the house of their dreams.

Do It Yourself - an amazingly large and useful collection of DIY How Tos.

Ikea Hackers - all about modifications on and re-purposing of Ikea products.

Decorology - Ashley is a web derringer by profession who blogs about interior design and decorating by night.

Dream Book Design - I like pretty much everything they've done (except for featuring a dead cow skin rug in one of their posts).

Simply Grove - Kirsten Grove does a great job of providing a design and decor blog for those of you with a love of interiors and an appetite for design eye-candy. It features room makeovers, Kirsten's own home projects and furniture projects, beautiful room images, an much more!

Home Portfolio - a virtual showroom of home design ideas, pictures, and products.

Nesting Place - Myquillyn says that her secret to unlocking creativity and hope for your home is "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful".

Jetson Green - a great place to learn more about creating sustainable homes.

Moonworks' Home Improvement Blog - Moonworks are a home improvement company in the north-east who provide a lot of useful and practical down-to-earth information despite the lofty blog name.

Little House Blog - Aubrey from Toronto blogs about her obsession with interiors and design.

Home Stories A to Z - Beth aims to create beauty out of chaos, and she does exactly that.

The DIY Dreamer - lots of tutorials, crafts, DIY fun.

Infarrantly Creative - this is the place to go if you are wondering how to turn crutches into a floor lamp or an old television into a console table.

Thanks I Made It - Erin is a DIYer who believes something you made yourself is twice as enjoyable as something you bought, who could disagree with that?

Decor Happy - Vanessa Francis and her ideas and inspirations about living well in your own home.

Habitually Chic - actually it's more about making you jealous of glamorous homes rather than helping you improve your own, and it has a lot of great photographs which work to that effect.

The Peak of Chic - Jennifer Boles shares her musings on high-end interiors and lving.

The Lovely Side - Jessica Hansen home renovation ideas on a budget is a 20 something who writes a young lady's guide to living on the lovely side with many posts about decorating and home decor.

Unclutterer - all about uncluttering your home, and life in general.

Full House - by the mother of twin girls and triplet boys - fortunately the boys have a soundproofed bedroom!

Freshome - has been providing inspiration to make your home more beautiful, organized and healthy since 2007.

katiedid - Katie Denham's motto is ."Go Decorate your Life!".

Homespot HQ - this is the blog from the company that helps you manage information about your home by using there online home management recording keeping database.

The House of Smiths - has a lot of handy DIY and craft tutorials.

Rebecca Orlov - Formely known as "Loving. Living. Small." Rebecca now focuses her blogging efforts on home design, baby style, design inspirations, dining goodness and wanderlust.

Treehugger - what I really like about this is they bring rational thinking to the design and technological side of creating buildings and spaces without losing creative insight.

My Old Country House - some really good practical advice on everything from fixing a hole in a wall to the art of dealing with contractors.

The Gold Jellybean - a great DIY site for parents who are looking for projects to do with their children.

DIY Home Improvement Help - a lot of great advice with detailed information from a retired builder in Australia. Sadly it doesn't look like Bill updates the blog anymore, but it still has a wealth of great DIY information.

Normal Room - interior design and home furniture from all around the globe.

Life The Green Way - as you can probably guess by the title, this blog focuses on the environmental aspects of home living.

Cottage Magpie - a 1950s ranch with an empty pocketbook and cottage dreams.

Simply Sweet Home - Jerri blogs about crafts as well as cooking.

The Stylish Nest - creating home, garden, and life, one DIY adventure at a time..

One Project Closer - to your dream home. Ethan presents some great home projects here, and although he seems to have stopped updating the blog last year it still has some great project descriptions and 'how to' information.

It's quite possible that I've missed some excellent blogs, but don't despair - feel free to tell me about any great home improvement blogs you know of via the contact page.

Admin · 33 vistas · Escribir un comentario
24 Dic 2016 
People spend a lot of time in the kitchen these days. No wonder it is called the 'heart of the home'! Many children even grow up with the wonderful memories of nights at kitchen table, doing homework, eating dinner and hanging out with family. Letting your cooking room stay outdated and dreary can decrease your desire to spend time in this room. Don't you think such a place deserves a little updating?

If you are thinking about updating your kitchen, here are five kitchen remodeling ideas to lower the cost of your project without compromising the quality.

Think whether you really need to replace everything?

When modernizing a kitchen, it is exciting to replace everything and start fresh. But to save on your house renovations before and after remodeling cost, replace only those items that you really can't do without. Think about whether replacing everything is really a necessity or if you can carry on your kitchen home improvement ideas kitchen works with what you have. For instance, you can definitely home improvement ideas pictures replace your countertop if you want but painting or refinishing your kitchen cabinets rather them replacing them completely is also a great idea. With this update, you can surely enjoy the features of your new kitchen while keeping its remodeling cost low.

Change your wall color

Your kitchen can look beautiful and you do not even have to spend a lot of money for that. You only need to paint your walls. Consider painting the wall a bold color or add some accents, which complement the new color of the wall. Look for flea market products as an inexpensive way to make an impact with color.

Install new light fixtures

Install light fixtures to lighten up a dreary kitchen. Light fixtures can brighten things up without adding much to your kitchen remodeling costs. A kitchen needs a lot of light and if your cooking space doesn't have much natural light, fixtures such as track lighting can serve the purpose of lighting the dark spots in the kitchen area. Under-cabinet lighting is also very functional and can provide a decorative touch to highlight the decorative pieces.

Use fabrics to decorate your kitchen interiors

When people think about decorating with fabrics, they generally think about the dining room, living room or bedroom. However, kitchen is also a place where fabrics can be used. You can use a beautiful tablecloth to cover up your old table. Not only will the tablecloth help you to hide all the scratches on the table, it will also provide a complete new look. A skirt can be used to cover up the island and fresh curtains can be used to liven up the windows. Do not forget the cushions for your barstools or towels, kitchen chairs, potholders and oven mitts. To keep your kitchen remodeling cost low, buy leftover lengths of fabric from discounted stores.

Shop smart when it comes to floors

Flooring is the most expensive part of remodeling a kitchen but if you shop smart, this cost can be reduced. For instance, if you prefer tile floors but have a limited budget; opt for clay tiles rather than porcelain tiles. They look similar.

These kitchen remodeling tips are not complicated at all. Just follow them while updating your kitchen and reduce your remodeling cost to a great extent!
Admin · 52 vistas · Escribir un comentario
23 Dic 2016 
Myth: I looked at my roof and didn't see any problems, or my roofer inspected it and there are no problems.

Fact: Roofing systems must be physically inspected by some one who has training and experience to determine if there is actual hail damage. Insurance companies send their adjusters too roofer job description special training so they can properly identify hail damage to property, unfortunately there is not much ongoing training for the roofing or home inspection industries.

Myth: I'm not missing any shingles so I must not have damage.

Fact: Missing shingles are related to wind damage claims and can happen during a hailstorm if the winds are high enough. However hail damage is insidious in nature and may not physically cause leakage for years after a hail storm.

Myth: I only have 1 year to file my insurance claim.

Fact: Many insurance companies do have a one year time limit and some even less, however due to the nature of hail damage they may pay claims past the deadline. This usually happens if a hail storm is widespread geographically.

Myth: My roof is new so it's covered by the manufacturer's warranty, home builder, or contractor.

Fact: Manufacturer's specifically name hail as an exclusion to their product warranty, so do home builders and roofing contractors. Newer roofs can actually be more susceptible to hail damage versus older roofs due to the time it takes a new roof to cure from exposure to the elements.

Myth: I was told my roof has minimal or very little damage and therefor I don't need to file a claim.

Fact: If your roof has any damage what-so-ever you have a valid insurance claim and should file with your insurance company. Damage might not cause your roof to leak for years. This is why it's important to have a qualified person inspect your roof.

Myth: My insurance company will cancel my policy if I file a claim.

Fact: Most states prohibit insurance companies from cancelling policies for filing claims arising from severe weather related events. Check with your state however and your policy language as well.

Myth: If I don't file my claim, my insurance company won't raise my rates.

Fact: After a disaster, insurance companies may raise every one's rates. By not filing your claim, your personal rate increase is paying for every one else's damage except yours.
Admin · 47 vistas · Escribir un comentario

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