Applying Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to Single-Member Offices

This Note questions whether an exemption for single-member offices is justified. Part I provides a brief overview of the Voting Rights Act and the types of discrimination in the political process to which it applies., Part I then reviews the decisions on single-member offices, including the courts’ attempts to define single-member offices. This Part concludes neither Congress nor the Supreme Court dictates an exemption for single-member offices. Instead, single-member offices should be open to challenge if they hamper the achievement of section 2’s goals. Part II identifies the goals of section 2 by developing a number of theories to give meaning to the opportunity to participate and elect language of section 2. This Part concludes the goal of section 2 is to bolster civic inclusion in the political process by eliminating the lingering effects of race discrimination. Part III then tests the exemption for single-member offices against the goal of section 2. This Note concludes that the exemption actually thwarts section 2’s goal and, therefore, single-member offices should be open to challenge under section 2. Finally, Part IV develops guidelines for applying section 2 to single-member offices.