Elections Supreme Court

Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects One-Person, One-Vote Challenge

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

In a unanimous 8-0 decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to the principle of "one-person, one-vote."

Evenwel v. Abbott was filed by plaintiffs who wanted districts to be drawn by counting only eligible voters which would not include children and immigrants, among others. The obvious result would have been to concentrate white power and disenfranchise large swaths of people.

via Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress

As Justice Ginsburg notes in her opinion, every state uses a similar method to carve up legislative districts within the state. Under the “one person/one vote” doctrine, states are required to draw districts with roughly equal population. Currently, “all States use total population numbers from the census when designing congressional and state-legislative districts, and only seven States adjust those census numbers in any meaningful way.” Thus, a congressional district in one part of a state will have roughly the same number of people as a congressional district in another part of a state, even if different numbers of people actually vote in these two districts.

The plaintiffs in Evenwel asked the Supreme Court to change this equation. Had they prevailed, states with large numbers of non-voters would still receive extra representation in Congress, but they also would have been required to carve up districts according to the number of eligible voters who live in the state. This would have mattered a great deal in states like Texas, the state specifically at issue in Evenwel, where a large number of non-citizen Latinos reside.

In the unanimous opinion, Justice Ginsburg wrote that rewriting the rules to only count eligible voters would violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

While Justice Antonin Scalia is no longer available to regale us or enrage us with a nonsensical, dissenting opinion, Justice Clarance Thomas did step up to the plate and write something that reads like a dissent even though he voted with the majority.

“In my view, the majority has failed to provide a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle because no such basis exists,” he wrote. Instead of continuing the “misguided search” for one, Thomas instead urged his colleagues to leave the question of apportionment to the states themselves. “There is no single ‘correct’ method of apportioning state legislatures,” he concluded.

Justice Thomas voted with the majority to affirm States' Rights, not to affirm "one-person, one-vote."

Justice Thomas is a very twisted man.

  • muselet

    Despite the intellectually-suspect concurrences from (who else?) Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who argued that the Supreme Court went too far and should have allowed states to determine their own formulas for redistricting—because what could possibly go wrong under States’ Rights?—this is a good decision.

    I’m under no illusions that this decision will do anything but encourage Edward Blum or some other Righty lawyer to try a less obvious way to screw over groups which don’t reliably vote R. Still, we must celebrate small victories.


    • Draxiar

      Listening to this article on NPR they interviewed the guy promoting this silly reshuffle and like some sort of villain he said, “This isn’t over, we’ll keep fighting for this…I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!”. Well, he said the first part. Because of course they can’t take ‘no’ for answer they’ll just try to ask the other parent for a piece of candy.

      • notoriousbob

        “This isn’t over…” Yes, it kind of is.

      • muselet

        It figures.

        Righties will never accept a Supreme Court decision they don’t like. Since they don’t get absolutely everything they want from the Supremes every time, they’ve even taken to questioning Marbury v. Madison.

        Within a year, Edward Blum will have another case working its way through the courts, making the same argument but in slightly attenuated form. And he—or a like-minded person—will keep trying until he gets part of what he wants, then he’ll push the limits to get more of what he wants.

        The Right has realized how important control of the Supreme Court is. Will the Left?