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.
The decision did mark a victory for the principle of “one-person, one-vote” if only because it maintains the status quo. But the Evenwel decision will likely not be the final word on the matter. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s majority opinion explicitly stated that the Court did not “resolve whether, as Texas now argues, states may draw districts to equalize voter-eligible population rather than total population.” And conservatives can be expected to keep pushing for ways to exclude certain blocs of voters from the redistricting process—particularly non-citizens.
Having said all that, we expect state lawmakers—including those in the Republican-dominated Lone Star State—to be hesitant to use voter-eligible population when drawing district boundaries in the near future. Yes, the Court did not slam the door on states using a standard other than equal population when drawing their legislative districts. And yes, we are living in an era of extreme partisanship. In recent years, Republican legislatures across the country have gone to great lengths to erect barriers to voting rights and to rig legislative districts to their partisan advantage. But Republicans won’t be in a hurry to game the system and flout the “one-person, one-vote” norm.
Full Article: The Battle Over “One Person, One Vote,” Has Just Begun.