Should non-eligible voters be counted when drawing up electoral districts?
The U.S. Supreme Court will attempt to answer this question this coming fall, when it hears arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that argues only those who are eligible to vote should be counted when states draw up electoral districts for their legislatures.
Under current law, legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years based on U.S. Census data. However, the challengers say that basing electoral districts on population rather than how many eligible voters live in the district can lead to shifts in voter numbers and power. They also say it is a violation of the “one person, one vote” rule, which is based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
The case could have major implications for Southern California, where many legislative districts have large Latino populations. Many of the residents of these districts are either children or non-citizens, and therefore ineligible to vote.
If the Supreme Court were to side with the appellants, it could lead to a major swing in voter power. Two Texas voters are bringing the suit, which is being funded by an Austin, Texas-based nonprofit group called The Project on Fair Representation.
Do you think states should draw legislative districts based on population or the number of eligible voters in the district? How could a ruling in favor of the appellants affect Southern California? Do you think the current way states draw legislative districts is unconstitutional?
Andrew Grossman, litigator with the Washington D.C.-based law firm Baker Hostetler, which shares the interests of the appellant's case. He’s also a legal fellow at the Cato Institute.
Richard Hasen, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at UC Irvine’s School of Law. He’s also the author of the Election Law Blog