WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision upholding the long-standing and ubiquitous practice of equalizing electoral districts based on total population. The ruling came in a case, Evenwel v. Abbott, challenging the use of total population under the “one person, one vote” doctrine. This Fourteenth Amendment equal protection doctrine is what triggers the redrawing of electoral districts at the state and local level after each Census – to restore population equality among districts.
Evenwel is one in a series of similar legal challenges to the growth of Latino electoral power nationwide. MALDEF sought to intervene in the case on behalf of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus, five registered voters, and a U.S. citizen minor, before the case was dismissed by a three-judge U.S. District Court in Texas in November 2014.
MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, said “In a tremendous victory for democratic representation that recognizes that all constituents count, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the plaintiffs’ fatally flawed argument that states should count only voters in drawing districts. Moreover, a strong majority opinion makes it clear that the weight of history and experience are strongly against departing from the use of anything other than total population in drawing districts within a state. Any state that seeks to use some measure of less than total population does so at great constitutional peril. The bottom line is that this distracting string of cases, funded by the far right, has reached its ignominious end.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in today’s six-justice majority opinion that, “[a]dopting 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.”
MALDEF represented the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus and the Texas House Mexican American Legislative Caucus in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The amicus submission was one of only two cited by the Supreme Court in its opinion. Specifically, the Supreme Court cited the volume of maps provided by MALDEF that included the current Texas redistricting plan along with additional maps showing the negative consequences of changing the apportionment base.
MALDEF Vice President of Litigation, Nina Perales, said “This is a clear and important victory for the use of total population in redistricting. The decision protects the right of all people across the U.S. to be represented by their officials and be counted when electoral maps are drawn.”
All eight justices of the Supreme Court rejected the Evenwel plaintiffs’ assertions that voter eligible population must be used to draw districts. Six of the eight justices joined a thorough opinion demonstrating that the use of anything other than total population is inconsistent with the Constitution.