On Monday, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that states may count all residents, whether or not they are eligible to vote, in drawing election districts. The Court’s ruling in Evenwel v. Abbott, a case arising in Texas, reaffirms the Court’s commitment to the “one person, one vote” standard put forth in the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims.
The Texas case was brought by conservative activists whose position was that the Constitution did not allow the counting of people who had no right to vote (such as immigrants, prisoners or children) in drawing the boundaries of election districts. A contrary ruling by the Court would have shifted power away from cities with fast-growing communities of immigrants and given more strength to suburban and rural areas, effectively strengthening Republicans and weakening Democrats.
The Court’s unanimous decision also is a minor triumph for the group of eight justices, who are frequently equally divided into liberal and conservative sides on tough questions that face the Court. Last week, the Court split 4-4 on a case involving a challenge to the right of labor unions to collect “fair share fees” from all employees to help pay for collective bargaining.
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