When most people hear the phrase “one person, one vote,” they don’t stop to think about who counts as a person. The U.S. Supreme Court gets to answer that in a case — Evenwel v. Abbott — that started here in Texas. The plaintiffs contend their votes don’t count as much as those of voters in other state Senate districts because the districts are designed to have the same number of humans in them, not the same number of voters. It’s a simple idea, but changing who’s counted — the voters, instead of the humans — would wreck the country’s political maps, particularly in states like Texas where large numbers of people are not eligible to vote.
This is not only about drawing maps and which politicians win and lose in the next elections. It does not concern who is allowed to vote, but how their votes are distributed. It’s about representation — clout, if you’d rather — for the adults who are allowed to vote and for the felons and little kids and immigrants who live here but cannot.
One big problem is that there is no reliable count of eligible voters. The U.S. Census Bureau counts the population, but its numbers on eligible voters are merely estimates. At the first sign of a difference in opinion — and litigation is one of the few certainties when political maps are drawn — that federal agency would be on trial.