Edward Blum (litigant)

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Edward Blum
Alma materUniversity of Texas (1973)

Edward Blum is a politically conservative legal strategist and civil rights activist known for his activism against laws involving race and ethnicity.[1] Blum is not an attorney. He connects potential plaintiffs with attorneys who are willing to represent them in "test cases" which he tries to use to set legal precedents. He is the director and sole member of the Project on Fair Representation, which he founded in 2005. According to its website, the Project focuses specifically on voting rights, education, government contracting, and employment.[2] Since the 1990s, Blum has been heavily involved in bringing six cases to the United States Supreme Court, and the Court has partially or fully ruled in his favor in four of those cases.[3] He is a key figure in the 2015 Federal complaints against Harvard University's alleged discriminatory admission practices.

Early life[edit]

Edward Blum was born into a Jewish family in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where his parents owned and operated the local shoe store.[4] Counter to his later political leanings, he describes his parents as generally left-wing liberals who supported Democratic presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and that he was eventually "the first Republican my mother ever met".[5]

Political interest[edit]

While living as a stock broker in Houston, Texas in the early 80s, he became involved in the neoconservatism movement. In 1990, he realized that the Democratic incumbent in his congressional district, Craig Anthony Washington, was running unopposed, so decided to run against him for the Republican Party. During that campaign, Blum and his wife Lark went door-knocking and realized that the boundaries of their district erratically divided streets based on ethnicity, with the suspected purpose to gerrymander a majority African-American district. Blum eventually lost the congressional race. But he and others filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, claiming that the racially gerrymandered districts violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The case, Bush v. Vera, went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in Blum's favor.[4]


Blum holds a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). His areas of research at AEI include civil rights policy, affirmative action, multiculturalism, and redistricting. He has also written the book, The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (2007).

His litigation includes United States Supreme Court cases Bush v. Vera (1996), Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009), Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), Shelby County v. Holder (2013), Evenwel v. Abbott(2016), and Fisher v. University of Texas II(2016).

In Shelby County, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which subjected certain states and parts of states to federal scrutiny when they tried to modify voting procedures.[6] This scrutiny, known as "preclearance", was intended to prevent states from enacting voting procedures that disproportionately burden racial minorities. After unsuccessfully lobbying Congress to modify the preclearance rules in the Act's 2006 reauthorization, Blum set out to challenge the Act's constitutionality in court. He wanted to change or eliminate the law because it had indirectly led to the racial gerrymandering which he encountered in the 1990s when he ran for Congress.[7] He eventually persuaded officials in Shelby County, Alabama to sue the federal government. The Supreme Court's ruling was a major victory for Blum.

In Evenwel, Blum recruited Texas voters to sue Texas in a constitutional test case. Texas, like other states, divides its state legislative districts in a way that equalizes the total population of each district. However, some districts have more eligible voters than others because they have fewer minors, non-citizen immigrants, and convicted felons. Blum and his recruited plaintiffs contended that this discriminates against voters in districts with high numbers of eligible voters, since each person's vote has less power.[8] They wanted the Supreme Court to mandate that districts be drawn based on voter-eligible population rather than total population. In an April 2016 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld Texas's district scheme.[9] This was a defeat for Blum.

The Fisher case, which challenged the University of Texas's consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions process, was decided at the Supreme Court in 2013 and again in 2016. The first time, the Court bolstered the legal standard that universities must satisfy if they wish to consider race, emphasizing that the use of race is only permissible if race-neutral alternatives would be ineffective at producing campus diversity.[10] The second time, the Court applied the heightened legal standard to UT's admission policy, concluding that it passes muster and upholding it.[11] This was a defeat for Edward Blum.

Project on Fair Representation[edit]

Edward Blum is also challenging race-conscious admissions policies at other selective universities, claiming that they do not comply with the strict legal standard set forth in Fisher.[12] To that end, he has founded Students for Fair Admissions, an offshoot of the Project on Fair Representation. This organization seeks to recruit students who have been rejected by selective universities and file lawsuits on their behalf.[13] Specifically, Blum is targeting Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He set up websites called harvardnotfair.org,[14] uncnotfair.org,[15] and uwnotfair.org[16] to attract plaintiffs. Students for Fair Admissions, led by Blum, filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill in November 2014. (SFFA has not sued UW-Madison thus far). Those cases are still pending in federal district court. Unlike the Fisher case, in which the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, made herself public,[17] the students rejected by Harvard and UNC have not revealed their identities because they want to shield themselves from potential retaliation.[citation needed] Rather, the named plaintiff is simply "Students for Fair Admissions", and that organization is prepared to assure the courts that it does in fact have members who were injured by the universities' use of race.[citation needed]


  • Blum, Edward (2007). The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. AEI Press. ISBN 9780844742571.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Morgan (February 23, 2012). "One Man Standing Against Race-Based Laws". New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Project on Fair Representation". Project on Fair Representation.
  3. ^ Savage, David (22 December 2015). "Conservative legal strategist has no office or staff, just a surprising Supreme Court track record". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b Biskupic, Joan. "Special Report: Behind U.S. race cases, a little-known recruiter". Reuters. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  5. ^ "The Imperfect Plaintiffs" (Podcast). Radiolab. WNYC. June 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Barnes, Robert (25 June 2013). "Supreme Court stops use of key part of Voting Rights Act". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  7. ^ "SCOTUSblog On Camera: Edward Blum (Complete)". YouTube. SCOTUSBlog. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  8. ^ Lithwick, Dahlia (8 December 2015). "What Exactly Does "One Person, One Vote" Mean Anyway?". Slate. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  9. ^ "Evenwel v. Abbott, Governor of Texas" (PDF). US Supreme Court. US Supreme Court. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin" (PDF). US Supreme Court. Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  11. ^ "Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin" (PDF). US Supreme Court. US Supreme Court. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  12. ^ "Edward Blum Speaks about the Legal Battle against Harvard University". youtube.com. Houston Chinese Alliance. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Project on Fair Representation Files Suits against Harvard and UNC". Students For Fair Admissions. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  14. ^ "Harvard University Not Fair". Not Fair Harvard. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Not Fair: UNC". The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Not Fair. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  16. ^ "Not Fair: UW". The University of Wisconsin at Madison Not Fair. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  17. ^ Edwards, Giles. "Abigail Fisher: Affirmative action plaintiff 'proud' of academic record". www.bbc.com. BBC News. Retrieved 1 August 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]