The US supreme court on Monday unanimously rejected a conservative challenge to voting rights – ruling that states could count the total population, not just eligible voters, in drawing legislative districts. The case was brought before the court after conservative activists challenged the legal principle of “one person, one vote”, which has long established that election districts should be drawn to be equal in population. The two plaintiffs, both residents of Texas, argued the principle diluted the influence of those living in districts where a larger number of individuals were ineligible to vote. But shifting the method would most certainly lend greater power to states with wealthier populations with mostly white voters, and away from urban and more racially diverse areas. The lawsuit was opposed by the Obama administration, the state of Texas and civil rights groups across America.
Not a single member of the court, down to eight members since the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia, sided with the challengers. Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the opinion for the court, in which the liberal justice wrote that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate a rationale upon which the court should overturn the longstanding use of total population in drawing districts.
The nation’s founders, she added, intended that “representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote”. “Adopting voter-eligible apportionment as constitutional command would upset a well-functioning approach to districting that all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions have followed for decades, even centuries,” Ginsburg wrote. The supreme court endorsed the current method of drawing districts during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Ginsburg cited “constitutional history, the court’s decisions and longstanding practice” in her opinion, in which she was joined by justices John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy and Sonia Sotomayor. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, among the court’s conservative members, each wrote their own concurring opinions.