Supreme Court Backs 'One Person, One Vote'

Challenge to long-held principle is rejected
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2016 12:47 PM CDT
Supreme Court Backs 'One Person, One Vote'
In this 2012 file photo, the Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington.   (J. Scott Applewhite)

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can count everyone, not just eligible voters, in deciding how to draw electoral districts, turning back a challenge from Texas voters that could have dramatically altered district boundaries and disproportionately affected the nation's Latino population, reports the AP. The decision is generally a win for Democrats, notes the New York Times. The court ruled that the challenged state Senate districting map, using total population, complied with the principle of "one person, one vote," the requirement laid out by the Supreme Court in 1964 that districts be roughly equal in population. The issue, though, was what population to consider: everyone or just eligible voters. The challengers said the districts had vastly different numbers when looking at eligible voters, in violation of the Constitution.

"Jurisdictions, we hold, may design state and local legislative districts with equal total populations; they are not obliged to equalize voter populations," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, summarizing her opinion for the court. Ginsburg said that "history, our decisions, and settled practice in all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions point in the same direction." Two rural Texas voters challenged the use of total population in drawing state Senate districts because they said it inflates the voting power of city dwellers. In Texas and other states with large immigrant populations, urban districts include many more people who are too young, not citizens, or otherwise ineligible to vote. The court stopped short of saying that states must use total population. It also didn't rule on whether states are free to use a different measure, as Texas asked. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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