An interesting case was just brought before the U.S. Supreme Court that could have massive ramifications for our electoral system. It centers around the definition of “one person, one vote.” The question is, exactly what does that mean? When districts are created, right now it’s based on population, but should that definition be refined?
I was reading a recent piece by Drew Desilver of the Pew Research Center, which said, “This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a Texas case that challenges the way nearly every U.S. voting district – from school boards to Congress – is drawn.
The case asks the court to specify what the word “person” means in its “one person, one vote” rule. The outcome of the case could have major impacts on Hispanic voting strength and representation from coast to coast.
Ever since a series of landmark rulings in the 1960s, districts have been drawn “as nearly of equal population as is practicable.” (As Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote for the majority in Reynolds v. Sims, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.”)
The high court didn’t directly say what “equal population” meant, but states and localities have almost invariably used total population figures. And that population is determined by the decennial census. However, the appellants in the Texas case, Evenwel v. Abbott, argue that districts instead should be drawn to have equal numbers of eligible voters. (The case involves redistricting within states, not reapportioning congressional seats among states.)
That’s a big distinction, because in many states, districts with nearly equal total populations can have dramatically different numbers of eligible voters (that is, U.S. citizens ages 18 and older).”
Let’s repeat that again. There is a huge differentiation between just plain population and the number of eligible voters. For example, there are areas where felony arrests mean someone can be part of the population, but will never be an eligible voter.
The question that arises is, does this violate the basic sense of “taxation without representation” upon which our revolution was ignited?