Do elected representatives serve the interests of every person in their district, including illegal aliens and others ineligible to vote? That’s the question to be considered by the United States Supreme Court later this year. The Minneapolis Star Tribune describes the potential policy change as “a major shift in how political districts are drawn nationwide.”
Since the 1960s, the high court has enforced the “one person, one vote” rule to require that election districts be roughly equal in population. This rule is based on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and it is applied to all election districts, whether for members of Congress, state legislators, county supervisors or local school boards.
At least once a decade, these districts may be redrawn based on new census data. The U.S. Census Bureau seeks to count the total population, including noncitizens and immigrants in the country illegally.
In its appeal, the Project on Fair Representation based in Austin, Texas, says the districts should be balanced based on the number of eligible voters. The group sued on behalf of Sue Evenwel, a leader of the Texas Republican Party. She lives in Titus County in east Texas, where her state Senate district had 533,010 citizens of voting age in 2011. However, another Senate district had 372,000 citizens of voting age.
The appeal in Evenwel vs. Abbott argues that her right to an equal vote is being denied because Texas officials relied on the census data to balance the districts.
Critics predictably portray the effort as voter suppression, though it remains unclear how the drawing of a political district keeps anyone from voting. The real question is whether those who are eligible to vote have equal representation under the status quo, or whether that matters.