On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could fundamentally alter the way districts are drawn in the United States. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could also undermine the bedrock American principle of “one person, one vote”.
The case brought forward by Texas plaintiffs Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, argues that Texas Senate Districts dilute the plaintiffs’ voting power, because a higher proportion of residents is eligible to vote in their districts than in other districts in the state. The two plaintiffs are represented by the right-wing group Project on Fair Representation, which also brought the suit against the Voting Rights Act to the Supreme Court.
Under current law, federal and state districts are drawn based on the principle that each district should have equal or nearly equal populations. The challenge brought before the Supreme Court would alter that formula, instead redrawing district’s based on eligible voter population, rather than total population. If the court accepts the plaintiff’s arguments, it will clear the way for redrawing districts, to further dilute the political power of already disenfranchised groups like children, prisoners, and undocumented immigrants.
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it will undermine “representational equality” which ensures that each elected representative in a body governs roughly the same number of people. It would also throw redistricting into chaos, as Census population data would be replaced by a hodgepodge of competing formulas used to estimate the voter eligible population in each district.
The court agreed to hear the case even though it has not been tested in the lower courts, which would typically rule on a case before it reaches the Supreme Court. The intended effect of the change would be to dilute the political power of Latinos, children, and voters in urban areas while disproportionately empowering older, rural and whiter voters.
While it remains uncertain how the Supreme Court will rule on the case, their decision to hear the case already confirms a familiar pattern with the Roberts’ Court. When it comes to election law, the only guiding principle that governs the decisions of the conservative justices on the Robert’s Court, is will the change benefit Republicans? If the answer is yes, then that is how the court will likely rule.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.