It turns out the idea of “one person, one vote” isn’t as simple as it sounds. The U.S. Supreme Court will put that half-century-old constitutional principle to the test Tuesday, hearing an appeal that liberal groups say would transform the way legislative maps are drawn, giving more voting clout to Republican strongholds and less to Hispanic communities. The debate centers on an issue that until recently had appeared to be settled. For decades, map-drawers virtually everywhere have tried to equalize the size of districts based on their total population. Now an appeal pressed by two Texans, including a Republican county chairwoman, says the measure should be eligible voters, an approach that would reduce representation for areas heavy with children and non-citizens.
The court is being asked to “start a reapportionment revolution, radically changing the way states and local governments draw election districts,” said David Gans, a lawyer at the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington.
The case touches on a fundamental question about the role of elected representatives, asking whether they serve on behalf of everyone in their district or only those eligible to cast ballots. That issue has taken on greater importance as the share of non-citizens in the U.S. has grown. The number has risen from 2 percent in 1970 to 7 percent in 2013, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington.
“America has a different population than it did 50 years ago, and our election laws must take account of that,” said Edward Blum, whose Project on Fair Representation is behind the challenge to Texas’s voting map.