The case of “one person, one vote” was settled yesterday in the Supreme Court, 8-0. This ruling was a major victory for civil rights advocates, who opposed the challenge that legislative districts be drawn based solely on eligible voters and not on the total population.
For several months, even as the Court endured the loss of Antonin Scalia, the case was considered very critical in determining whether it would tilt the voting to the urban sector or the rural sector, which would have favored the Republican Party.
“Adopting voter-eligible apportionment as constitutional command would upset a well-functioning approach to districting that all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions have followed for decades, even centuries,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her majority opinion.
Evenwel v. Abbott was the suit filed against the Texas governor and secretary of state in 2015 that contended the apportionment on total population diluted their votes in relation to voters in other senate districts.
According to the brief, appellants sought an injunction barring use of the existing Senate map in favor of a map that would equalize the voter population in each district. A three-judge district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted.
In less juridical terminology, civil rights proponents wanted to keep in place a ruling that stemmed from cases in the 1960s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. What the challengers sought, mainly conservative groups, was that non-citizens, prisoners, the formerly incarcerated and others be excluded from the total count because they are not eligible to vote.
What was most surprising about the Court’s vote was its unanimity, including concurring opinions from justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
“The choice is best left for the people of the states to decide for themselves how they should apportion their legislature,” Thomas wrote.
Alito agreed, noting,“Whether a state is permitted to use some measure other than total population is an important and sensitive question that we can consider if and when we have before us a state districting plan that, unlike the current Texas plan, uses something other than total population as the basis for equalizing the size of districts.”