SCOTUS Unanimously Rules That Every Citizen Deserves Equal Representation, Not Just Voters

Created: 05 April, 2016
Updated: 16 October, 2022
2 min read

In a unanimous 8-0 decision Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote,” meaning that Texas will continue to count the total population – rather than just the eligible voting population – in drawing their legislative districts.

The plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott, backed by a conservative advocacy group, contended that Texas' State Senate districts are malapportioned. Plaintiffs said that when the Supreme Court established the principle of “one person, one vote” in 1963, it failed to specify whether a “person” should mean anyone or specifically an eligible voter. As long as anyone counted as a “person” for the purposes of redistricting, the plaintiffs argued, Texans who lived in districts with large numbers of people ineligible to vote ended up with more representative power than those who didn't.

Monday's ruling maintained the status quo that “person” means anyone, not just voters. In her majority opinion, Justice Ginsburg wrote that “nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates.” She argued that public institutions and services still help and affect many groups who don't vote, such as children and ex-felons. Therefore, using total population numbers when designing legislative districts ensures fairer representation.

A decision in favor of the plaintiffs could have potentially shifted voting power in Texas away from Democratic-leaning urban areas with high immigrant populations toward Republican rural and suburban areas. Democrats and civil rights groups were afraid that the court was ready to deliver another blow to voting rights after the 2013 decision that weakened the Voting Rights Act.

But though liberals will no doubt see Evenwel v. Abbott's result as a victory, the outcome wasn't as clear-cut as the unanimous 8-0 vote would imply. While the court sided with the status quo in this specific case, it stopped short of issuing a definitive ruling. Justice Thomas in particular wrote that “the Constitution leaves the choice to the people alone — not to this court,” leaving the door open for future legal challenges and for state legislators to try and change redistricting policies on their own.

Photo Credit: J Main / shutterstock.com

Latest articles

Poll Shows Strong Support for 'Top Two' Measure in South Dakota
A recent poll shows that 55% of South Dakota voters support Amendment H, which if approved in November will implement a nonpartisan, top-two primary in the state similar to systems used in California and Washington....
13 June, 2024
2 min read
Washington DC
Report: Half of 2024 US House Races Already a Done Deal
Editor's Note: The following article on The Fulcrum and has been republished with permission from t...
12 June, 2024
3 min read
Arizona Initiative: Parties Can Either Accept Open Primaries or Pay for Them
Arizona is ground zero for a novel approach to voting reform that is not getting any attention from the national press, but could have tremendous implications for future elections and provide a fairer process for all voters -- regardless of their political affiliation. ...
12 June, 2024
5 min read