Dec. 07, 2023 — Legal scholars addressed representation challenges facing U.S. democracy amid a growing immigrant population during the 28th Annual Frankel Lecture hosted by the Houston Law Review.
The keynote speaker, Rachel F. Moran, Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law, delved into the complexities of fair representation, particularly in Texas, a state she believes to be “the place with the playbook for preserving power in a changing demography.” She highlighted the dual nature of Texas — a state of “transformative inclusion at the same time of powerful exclusion.”
“Now more than ever we need to talk about difficult things in a constructive way and try to break through the polarization that often paralyzes our ability to move forward,” Moran said.
Ilya Somin and Joseph Fishkin joined Moran in the discussion on “The Perennial Eclipse: Race, Immigration, and How Latinx Count in American Politics" and explored different approaches to enhance civic engagement.
Somin, a Professor of Law at George Mason University, offered a perspective on political engagement through what he termed “foot voting.”
He said that people vote with their feet in three ways: choosing where to live, migrating internationally, and engaging with the private sector.
According to Somin, the traditional ballot box voting has notable disadvantages, “The chance that your vote will actually make a difference on the outcome is infinitesimally small,” and ballot box voters have “very little incentive to acquire relevant information and become well-informed about the issues at stake in a given election.”
Fishkin, Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, argued, “We need to enable more people to actually vote,” and explored avenues for enhanced representation, including nationalization processes, broader immigration reform, and ending felon disenfranchisement.
He also proposed lowering the voting age saying, “Allowing high school students to vote would create a powerful mechanism to turn high schools into sites of civic education and engagement.”
Fishkin noted while we have an “imperfect, messy system” that “as long as there has been politics, voting has been recognized as the feedback loop you need.”
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