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SCOTUS to hear Texas “one person one vote” challenge

Gird your loins.

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When drawing voting districts, should lawmakers seek to make each district have roughly the same number of people, or the same number of people eligible to vote?

The Supreme Court is going to answer that question, the court announced Tuesday morning. The question lies at the heart of a Texas case, and both sides say it will help clarify what the Constitutional principle of one-person-one-vote means at the heart of the Equal Protection Clause.

Titus County GOP chairwoman Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger of Montgomery County sued Gov. Perry in 2014 after he signed into law a revised redistricting plan, the product of protracted back and forth disputes between lawmakers, the state, the Justice Department and federal courts. That plan, based on a map approved by the courts, put roughly the same number of Texans in each district.

But Evenwel and Pfenninger, sued because they say that lawmakers should only balance the number of resident in each district that are eligible to vote. Otherwise, voters in areas that have higher percentages of residents who are not eligible to vote have more clout.

A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed those claims and granted the state’s motion for summary judgment last year. Now, the Supreme Court will take up the case next year, it announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed last year. Rick Hasen explains why (in language that lawyers will understand) it got to SCOTUS so quickly. This Texas Redistricting post from the time gives the background on the case and what is at stake. Note, as Michael Li did on Facebook, that in this case the state of Texas is on the same side as minority interests; any jokes are left as an exercise for the reader. A similar case brought by the same group of grievance-seekers was rejected by the courts and declined to be heard by SCOTUS. What’s different this time is not clear, but needless to say we’ll need to keep a close eye on it. The case will be heard in the next Supreme Court term. By the way, am I the only one thinking that if the Supreme Court really wants to go all originalist on us here, they could just declare that all those ineligible voters – the non-citizens, felons, and children that these plaintiffs are complaining about – only count as 3/5 of a person for apportionment purposes. What could possibly go wrong with that? Hasen, Letters from Texas, and Ed Kilgore have more.

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