HOUSTON — The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously ruled that states may satisfy the “one person, one vote” rules by drawing legislative districts based on total population rather than only eligible voters, when drawing election districts.
This was a crucial defeat for Republicans in Texas who have continued their attempts to suppress the vote by counting the districts based only on the voting-age populations.
Evenwel v. Abbott was a case brought to the Supreme Court by Texans Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger. Pfenninger notably is a resident of Montgomery County, just north of Houston.
A different ruling by the Supreme Court could have stripped many urban areas, like Houston, of political power, as Democrats usually receive the most support from urban areas with a diverse demographic.
Currently, all states use total population for legislative redistricting, including congressional districts. The question of whether or not the legislative district count should contain the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters, had never been addressed by the Supreme Court until now.
Even though the court provided an 8-0 unanimous decision, the court gave three different justifications for its judgement. Conservatives were attempting to discount children, immigrants and prisoners, who are here in the U.S. legally but are not citizens.
The Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus and other Hispanic groups argued that the legal challenge was an attack on Hispanic constituents, many of whom would be directly affected by this issue because of a lack of citizenship status.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority decision.
“Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates — children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system — and in receiving constituent services, such as help navigating public-benefits bureaucracies,” stated Justice Ginsburg.
There was another question at hand that the court decided not to rule on. The question asked if it would be constitutional for states to use the voter-eligible population for reapportionment if they chose to do so.
“As history, precedent and practice demonstrate, it is plainly permissible for jurisdictions to measure equalization by the total population of state and local legislative districts,” Justice Ginsburg continued.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton put out a statement stating that his office was pleased with the decision and “committed to defending the Constitution.”
The head of the Texas Democratic Party said, “This is a victory for our democracy,” as many Democratic groups around the state are celebrating the ruling.