The court’s new term, which starts Monday, will jump right back into high-profile constitutional battles like voting rights, affirmative action and the death penalty, as well as a new attack on public-sector labor unions. And the justices may well agree to take up issues of abortion and contraception again, in cases that could further strip away reproductive rights. The decisions last term showed a court willing to take into account the effects of the law on individual lives. This term, the justices have many opportunities to show that same type of awareness. The legal principle of “one person, one vote” got its fullest expression in the 1964 case Reynolds v. Sims, which ruled that state legislative districts must contain roughly equal numbers of people. Before then, district populations varied widely, an intentional practice that gave more power to rural white voters than those in the more diverse cities. While the court has never defined who counts as a person, the vast majority of states count all people who live in a district, even if they are not eligible to vote.
In Evenwel v. Abbott, two Texas voters are challenging that principle. They want to force the state to count only the number of voters in apportioning districts. This approach, besides being at odds with long-accepted practice, is both inflexible and impractical. The census, which provides the data that most states use, counts people, not voters.
Of course, the plaintiffs know that getting rid of a system that counts all people would hurt Democratic-leaning urban areas with large, noncitizen Latino populations, and would favor rural and conservative areas where more Republicans live. In other words, the suit is an effort to transfer political power from Democratic to Republican regions. The Supreme Court has never required that states follow this or any other specific method of apportionment, and there is no reason to start now.