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Posted by on May 26, 2015


Washington Post, May 26, 2015

The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important “one person, one vote” case next term to determine whether states should consider total population — or only eligible voters — when drawing roughly equal legislative districts.

A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts.

The Supreme Court in 1964 ruled that states must divide electoral districts population-wise so that political power is equally shared. But it did not specify whether total population or eligible voters was the standard to use.

The case comes from two people who are challenging Texas’s redistricting, which like most states is based on total population. The state had told the justices that there was no reason to take up the challenge.

“Plaintiffs cite no case in which a court has accepted their claim that the Constitution compels states to apportion their legislative districts based on voter population as opposed to or in addition to total population,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in the state’s response.

“And multiple precedents from this court confirm that total population is a permissible apportionment base under the Equal Protection Clause.”

The challenge is brought by the Project on Fair Representation, an organization headed by Edward Blum, which has also brought challenges based on racial and ethnic classifications to affirmative action in higher education and to the federal Voting Rights Act.

Their petition to the court said that while Texas’s Senate districts are roughly equal in population, they vary widely in the number of eligible voters.

“This case presents the court with the opportunity to restore the important principle of one-person, one-vote to the citizens of Texas and elsewhere,” Blum said in a statement.

The case is Evenwel v. Abbott and will be heard in the term that starts in October.