Written By Desire Thompson, NBC News
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that districts will continue to use total population instead of voter population to determine legislative redistricting in Texas, maintaining fair voting rights for the state’s large Latino population. According to NBC News, the decision was made Monday after Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger argued that only eligible voters should be counted, which can harm large urban communities consisting of non-voters and children, but benefit large districts with conservative and rural voters.
The ruling, signed with an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was supported by Justices John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas concurred but drew their own notes on the ‘one person, one vote’ law.
“In a concurring opinion, one of the Supreme Court’s conservatives, Justice Alito, said Monday’s decision holds only that states are not required to count total population. The ruling does not bar states from instead counting the voting population, which he called “an important and sensitive question that we can consider if and when” such a case comes before the court.”
The historic “one person, one vote” view has been seen as a clear way to treat voters equally across districts. If the argument was supported, large states like Texas, New York, California, New Jersey, Arizona and Nevada would have seen the largest changes in voting rights.
The ruling is also a win for liberals who have supported total population voting. Ginsburg explained that those not eligible to vote need representation and the 14th amendment is permitted as a foundation for drawing districts.
“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,” Ginsburg wrote, “By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation.”
“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,” Ginsburg wrote. “Appellants have shown no reason for the Court to disturb this longstanding use of total population.”