Evenwel v. Abbott

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Editorials: The Battle Over “One Person, One Vote,” Has Just Begun | Carl Klarner and Dan Smith/The American Prospect

After the Supreme Court’s politically consequential decision in Evenwel v. Abbott this month, supporters of the principle of “one-person, one vote” breathed a sigh of relief. The Court unanimously ruled that states may continue to draw legislative districts based on total population, instead of on a new standard—the number of registered or eligible voters—that would have excluded non-citizen immigrants, youth under 18, people who are or were incarcerated, and anyone else not registered to vote. The ruling stymied a challenge brought by conservative activists in Texas who set out to upend the practice of apportioning legislative districts based on population, which had been settled law for five decades. A ruling in the challengers’ favor could have triggered mass redrawing of legislative district lines around the country, most likely to the advantage of Republicans.

Full Article: The Battle Over "One Person, One Vote," Has Just Begun.

Editorials: One person, one vote: A case of surprise unanimity at the Supreme Court over voting rights | The Economist

Predicting Supreme Court rulings based on the tenor of oral arguments is notoriously hazardous, but journalists’ hunches are rewarded often enough that they keep on coming. In December, this paper averred that Evenwel v Abbott, a challenge to the way the states draw legislative districts, was a close call that would turn on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, one of the savviest Supreme Court journalists, also came away from the hearing thinking “it’s clear that…the justices will likely break along the usual partisan lines”. So it was a surprise last week when the eight justices—from Sonia Sotomayor on the left to Clarence Thomas on the right—voted unanimously to turn back a complaint about line-drawing that would have strengthened Republican gerrymandering efforts across the country.

Full Article: One person, one vote: A case of surprise unanimity at the Supreme Court over voting rights | The Economist.

National: Supreme Court rejects conservative challenge in ‘one person, one vote’ case | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday endorsed the way Texas draws its legislative districts based on total population and not just eligible voters – the same method used by all 50 states – rejecting a conservative challenge in a case focusing on the legal principle of “one person, one vote.” The eight-justice court unanimously rebuffed the challenge spearheaded by a conservative legal activist that could have shifted influence in state legislative races away from urban areas that tend to be racially diverse and favor Democrats to rural ones predominantly with white voters who often back Republicans. Two of the court’s conservatives, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, concurred only in the judgment and did sign on to the opinion authored by liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The court is one justice short following the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, but the unanimous vote suggested his presence would not have substantially affected the outcome.

Full Article: Supreme Court rejects conservative challenge in 'one person, one vote' case | Reuters.

Texas: District Fight May Persist in Texas After Supreme Court Ruling | The New York Times

With a long-running legal struggle raging over one of the nation’s strictest voter identification laws, Texas was already a prime battleground in a war between conservatives and liberals over voting rights. And on Monday, experts here and elsewhere say, the Supreme Court may have opened a second front. The court said unanimously that the state could take into account all of its 27 million residents when it carves its territory into voting districts for the State Senate, regardless of whether they can vote in elections. It was a setback for conservatives who want to limit that redistricting population to eligible voters, and a resounding affirmation of the one-person-one-vote principle that has governed most redistricting nationwide for decades. But it was probably not the final word because the court was silent on whether any other population formula could be used to draw new voting districts. And within hours, advocates on both sides of the issue indicated that Texas or another conservative-dominated state was bound to do just that, probably after the 2020 census triggers a new round of redistricting nationwide.

Full Article: District Fight May Persist in Texas After Supreme Court Ruling - The New York Times.

National: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge on ‘One Person One Vote’ | The New York Times

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that states may count all residents, whether or not they are eligible to vote, in drawing election districts. The decision was a major statement on the meaning of a fundamental principle of the American political system, that of “one person one vote.” “We hold, based on constitutional history, this court’s decisions and longstanding practice, that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court. As a practical matter, the ruling mostly helped Democrats and upheld the status quo. But until this decision, the court had never resolved whether voting districts should contain roughly the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places that have large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally — including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants and children. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

Full Article: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge on ‘One Person One Vote’ - The New York Times.

National: Conservative challenge to voting rights unanimously rejected by supreme court | The Guardian

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.

Full Article: Conservative challenge to voting rights unanimously rejected by supreme court | Global | The Guardian.

National: How the Challenge to Legislative Redistricting in Evenwel v. Abbot Backfired | The Atlantic

If the Supreme Court were a stock market, the last few years have been as a bull market in conservative constitutional theories. With a tenuous but real 5-4 conservative majority in place, advocacy groups raced to get their pet theories before the Court. In some cases—campaign finance and gun rights, for example—the race paid off, producing 5-4 wins for radical shifts of doctrine. In others (think about public-employee unions) it has not. Bull markets tempt investors into unwise wagers. History, I suspect, will so regard the appellants in Evenwel v. Abbot, the “one-person-one-vote” (OPOV) case decided Monday. In Evenwel, the Court unanimously rejected an advocacy group’s invitation to throw American politics into turmoil, and in the process to shift power from immigrants to natives, from non-whites to whites, from young people to the aging, and, by coincidence, from the Democratic to the Republican Party. The needed votes, it now appears, were never there. The Court’s decision was unanimous; equally important, the majority opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attracted six of the Court’s eight justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Even more importantly, the six-justice majority not only decided against the conservative theory, it made it much harder for advocates to pursue the conservative theory in future cases.

Full Article: How the Challenge to Legislative Redistricting in Evenwel v. Abbot Backfired - The Atlantic.

California: Supreme Court rejects voting-district challenge that would have weakened Los Angeles’ clout | Los Angeles Times

For the second time in two weeks, a conservative bid to shift the law to the right fizzled at the Supreme Court, when the justices on Monday upheld the current, widely-used method of counting every person—not just voters—when drawing election districts. The unanimous ruling rejected a constitutional claim that states and municipalities may count only eligible voters when dividing up districts. Had the court accepted such an interpretation, it would have shifted power away from cities with fast-growing communities of immigrants, including Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix, and given more clout to suburban and rural areas. Doing so would have generally strengthened Republicans and undercut Democrats.

Full Article: Supreme Court rejects voting-district challenge that would have weakened Los Angeles' clout - LA Times.

National: Man behind gutting of Voting Rights Act: states may have ‘gone too far’ since decision | The Guardian

To his detractors, Edward Blum is one of the most dangerous men in America, a human wrecking ball on a mission to destroy the landmark achievements of the civil rights era and send the country back to a dark age of discrimination and harassment of minorities – in the workplace, in higher education and at the ballot box. That’s some reputation for a slightly built former stockbroker who answers his own phone, sounds nothing like the bullying demagogues who once held sway over the deep south, and even has some misgivings about the consequences of his actions. If anything, his soft-spoken, self-deprecating, consciously neurotic manner is reminiscent of Woody Allen from his early days in standup. Blum’s impact, though, is beyond question. For more than 20 years, working largely on his own, he has orchestrated lawsuits to challenge and, in some instances, dramatically reverse once sacrosanct legal principles. Case after case that he’s filed – on voting rights, on the drawing of electoral districts, on affirmative action – has made its way to the supreme court, often against the predictions of legal scholars, and found a sympathetic reception from the conservative majority.

Full Article: Man behind gutting of Voting Rights Act: states may have 'gone too far' since decision | US news | The Guardian.

Editorials: The Next Big Voting-Rights Fight | Emily Bazelon & Jim Rutenberg/The New York Times

Over the past year, The New York Times Magazine has chronicled the long campaign that led to the Supreme Court’s 2013 nullification of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provision — its Section 5 — and the consequences that decision has had for minority voters. As I’ve written in our Disenfranchised series, the gutting of Section 5 facilitated an onslaught of restrictive new laws that made voting disproportionately harder for minorities across the country, marking the biggest setback to minority voting rights in the half-century since President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a new case, Evenwel v. Abbott, that could also have a significant effect on minority political power — specifically, Hispanic voting power. Evenwel stems from a case first instigated in Texas by the same conservative group — the Project on Fair Representation — that helped bring about the decision gutting Section 5 in 2013. Like all of these big election cases, the issues involved are complicated, which may explain why Evenwel has drawn less media attention than it deserves; it does not reduce easily into sound bites. But the Court’s decision in Evenwel could be among the most important developments in politics in 2016, and well beyond. This series would not be complete for 2015 without a review of the case. My colleague Emily Bazelon and I have done our best to break it down as simply as possible, trading off segments to explain the main legal questions at play, the potential consequences and the likely outcomes. A decision is expected by June of 2016.

Full Article: The Next Big Voting-Rights Fight - The New York Times.

Editorials: Supreme Court Grapples, Once Again, With Redistricting | Michael Barone/Rasmussen Reports

Fifty-one years ago the Supreme Court handed down its one-person-one-vote decision, requiring that within each state congressional and legislative districts must have equal populations. That gave redistricters a relatively easy standard to meet. Census data provides block-by-block population counts every 10 years, and it’s possible now to draw lines for districts so that their populations are identical or vary by just one person. But redistricting cases keep making their way to the Court nonetheless. One reason is that the Voting Rights Act amendments of the 1980s have been interpreted as requiring the creation of a maximum number of districts with majorities or near-majorities of black or Hispanic residents. This has produced many grotesquely shaped constituencies and much litigation.

Full Article: Supreme Court Grapples, Once Again, With Redistricting - Rasmussen Reports™.

Editorials: One (mostly white, older) person, one vote | William H. Frey/The Washington Post

This month in Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court heard arguments for altering the long-standing principle of “one person, one vote” by substituting voting-age citizens for total population when drawing legislative districts within states. While much has been said about the implications of eliminating noncitizens from the population on which district lines are based, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case could have an even larger impact: shortchanging the interests of minority children and their families. That’s because nearly half of the nation’s under-18 population is made up of racial minorities, while 70 percent of voting-age citizens are white. The United States is undergoing a boom in demographic diversity, but it’s the younger population that’s being transformed first. Removing the racially diverse youth population from the apportionment calculation would intensify a divisive cultural generation gap that pervades politics and public attitudes in this country. Pew Research polling has shown that the mostly white older population is far less accepting of immigrant minorities and government support for social programs than is the increasingly minority younger population. The rise of immigrant-bashing presidential candidate Donald Trump as a hero among older white Republican primary voters represents an extreme version of the pushback against a demographically changing country.

Full Article: One (mostly white, older) person, one vote - The Washington Post.

National: Voter equality: The Supreme Court seems suddenly worried about partisan gerrymandering | The Economist

On December 8th, the Supreme Court heard back to back arguments in cases involving the idea that everyone’s vote should bear roughly equal weight—the so-called “one person, one vote” principle that was developed in a series of cases in the 1960s. Evenwel v Abbott, a challenge to the calculus Texas uses to work out population, makes an appearance in this week’s paper. Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which poses a similarly fraught question about district map-drawing, was argued one hour prior to Evenwel. Harris re-ignites a debate most court watchers thought was long settled: whether and to what extent America’s constitution permits partisan considerations to factor into the drawing of electoral maps. Until last week, the justices looked askance only at racial gerrymandering. Now at least a few Supremes seem to be entertaining the idea that there may be sharp limits on partisan political considerations as well, at least where voter equality is at stake.

Full Article: Voter equality: The Supreme Court seems suddenly worried about partisan gerrymandering | The Economist.

Editorials: Republicans’ coup de grace on voting rights? | Scott Lemieux/The Week

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: congressional districting. It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again. This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions. One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented. In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal. States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.

Full Article: Republicans' coup de grace on voting rights?.

National: Potential Power Shift as Court Weighs ‘One Person One Vote’ | The New York Times

A closely divided Supreme Court on Tuesday struggled to decide “what kind of democracy people wanted,” as Justice Stephen G. Breyer put it during an argument over the meaning of the constitutional principle of “one person one vote.” The court’s decision in the case, expected by June, has the potential to shift political power from urban areas to rural ones, a move that would provide a big boost to Republican voters in state legislative races in large parts of the nation. The basic question in the case, Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, is who must be counted in creating voting districts: all residents or just eligible voters? Right now, all states and most localities count everyone. The difference matters because people who are not eligible to vote — children, immigrants here legally who are not citizens, unauthorized immigrants, people disenfranchised for committing felonies, prisoners — are not spread evenly across the country. With the exception of prisoners, they tend to be concentrated in urban areas.

Full Article: Potential Power Shift as Court Weighs ‘One Person One Vote’ - The New York Times.

National: Will the Supreme Court Hand Republicans a Redistricting Revolution? | National Journal

The Su­preme Court on Tues­day will de­bate wheth­er to re­write the rules for le­gis­lat­ive re­dis­trict­ing—in a way that would fur­ther strengthen Re­pub­lic­ans’ dom­in­ance in state polit­ics. State le­gis­lat­ive dis­tricts are ap­por­tioned un­der the con­sti­tu­tion­al prin­ciple of “one per­son, one vote.” And, for dec­ades, states have taken that to mean that each dis­trict should con­tain roughly the same num­ber of people. But the chal­lengers in the case be­fore the high court Tues­day say that’s not the right in­ter­pret­a­tion. They say dis­tricts should be ap­por­tioned with equal num­bers of eli­gible voters, rather than total res­id­ents. If the chal­lengers suc­ceed, the case could ush­er in a re­dis­trict­ing re­volu­tion—and big gains for the GOP. Densely pop­u­lated urb­an areas tend to lean Demo­crat­ic, and also to con­tain more people who aren’t eli­gible or re­gistered to vote. If state le­gis­lat­ive dis­tricts were re­drawn to equal­ize the num­ber of eli­gible voters, rather than the num­ber of total res­id­ents, in­ner cit­ies’ polit­ic­al power would likely be di­luted in­to more con­ser­vat­ive sub­urbs.

Full Article: Will the Supreme Court Hand Republicans a Redistricting Revolution?.

Editorials: The Court Takes Up One Person, One Vote | The New York Times

On its face, the constitutional doctrine of “one person one vote” seems about as clear as they come: no one’s vote should count more than anyone else’s. In practice this means all state legislative districts must contain roughly equal numbers of people. The court has never defined who counts as a “person,” but most states count all people living in the district, not only those eligible to vote. This issue was before the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a dangerous lawsuit from Texas that could upend the widely accepted method of drawing district lines that is based on the number of people, not voters. Through a series of Supreme Court rulings in the 1960s, the justices developed the one-person-one-vote doctrine in response to persistent abuses of the line-drawing process by white legislators, who diluted the political power of cities that have large populations of African-Americans and other minorities.

Full Article: The Court Takes Up One Person, One Vote - The New York Times.

Editorials: History Draws a Line on ‘One Man, One Vote’ | Noah Feldman/Bloomberg

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether states’ drawing of legislative districts should be based on total population, as it is now, or voter population, as some conservatives want. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, raises a fundamental question about who is represented in our democracy. But as so often happens, the oral argument took a turn in the direction of our history with a focus on the drafting of the Constitution. The key moment came when Justice Elena Kagan asked petitioner William Consovoy what would seem like devastating question: The Constitution requires counting total population when apportioning congressmen, so why should the states have to count voters rather than population? 

Full Article: History Draws a Line on 'One Man, One Vote' - Bloomberg View.

Editorials: SCOTUS wrestles with redistricting cases | Josh Gerstein/Politico

The politically contentious topic of redistricting was front and center at the Supreme Court Tuesday, as the justices wrestled with a pair of cases challenging what factors states can and cannot consider as they draw lines. One case, out of Texas, looks at whether states should be required to take into account the number of voting-age citizens instead of or in addition to broader measures of population when setting up political boundaries. If the justices rule that the “one person, one vote” principle should be measured in part based on eligible voters, areas with high numbers of children or immigrants will likely see a loss of political power, while areas with fewer children and more U.S. citizens see a boost to their clout. Another case, out of Arizona, addresses whether political partisanship and concerns about qualifying for Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act are valid reasons to cause imbalances in the population of various districts.

Full Article: SCOTUS wrestles with redistricting cases - POLITICO.

Editorials: Justices will get no satisfaction with a new ‘one person, one vote’ rule | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times

At the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the justices struggled over the meaning of the 1960s-era “one person, one vote” rule. Should Texas legislative districts contain an equal number of people — as they do now — or an equal number of eligible voters, as the plaintiffs in Evenwel vs. Abbott demand? Ultimately, the justices may have no choice but to heed some other words written in the 1960s: You can’t always get what you want. Before the 1960s and the “reapportionment revolution,” there were few federal constitutional constraints on how district lines were drawn. In practice, this meant that many states gave much greater voting power to rural areas (with much smaller populations) than urban areas. In California, for example, as J. Douglas Smith explained in his book “On Democracy’s Doorstep,” despite huge increases in the state’s urban population, control of the Senate “remained in the hands of a shrinking rural and small-town minority.”

Full Article: Justices will get no satisfaction with a new 'one person, one vote' rule - LA Times.