Monday, April 4, 2016

"One Person, One Vote" Standard Upheld

Source: US Elections
On Monday April 4th, 2016, the United States Supreme Court in a unanimous vote decided in favor of the state of Texas in the court case Evenwell v Abbott. In this case, two voters challenged the redistricting of Texas voting districts in the 2013 Senate race. Districts were split up to have an even population of people instead of eligible voters. This includes children, criminals, illegal immigrants, and residents here using items such as visas. The state of Texas argued that because the government's decisions affect all constituents and not just eligible voters, all people should be taken into account when dividing up districts. 

By counting all people, the voting power of areas where there are not a lot of eligible voters is increased. Many of these areas are big cities which also tend to lean Democratic. This gives increased power to the Democrats in Texas. If the justices had ruled differently, rural areas which tend to lean more Republican would have gained the upper hand. 

By ruling in favor of Texas, the justices are merely stating the state of Texas has not acted unconstitutionally when drawing their districts. However, this does not concretely answer the question of how district apportionment should be determined. The justices agreed that this is still a choice left up to the people of the states. 

I personally agree that because all people residing in an area are affected by the decisions of the government, they should be counted in the population when drawing district maps. I feel this is less of a debate on who decides to register to vote and more of a debate on those privileged enough to have the right to have their voice heard. Because those who are not able to cast their own opinion during elections are still affected, they should be represented in some way- even if it is extremely minute.

How do you feel about district population being based on all residents and not just eligible voters?
Do you think this is what our founding fathers intended when they outlined our democracy?



Caroline Mameesh said...

Are those who cannot vote really being represented in being included in the redistricting process? They have no intentional sway, and this does not encourage politicians to appeal to their interests since they ultimately cannot vote. I think districts should be drawn in accordance to who is eligible to vote, since they are the ones casting a ballot and putting forth influence. Why is influence being handed out freely to those who cannot cast a ballot or give their opinion? Who knows how they may think. This process is essentially predetermining their sway for them. Texas is a largely Republican state, and giving Democrats an upper-hand in many districts through this redistricting method speaks for itself; it skews the ballots.
Our Founding Fathers would likely have disagreed with this ruling, simply because of the mindset of the times. Those with property and wealth are the ones who got to vote; generally, those who cannot vote are minorities or immigrants, aka, the less well off. I doubt the Founding Fathers would have valued the sway of those less off who could not vote.
However, our country's mindset today is more progressive and I think this ruling speaks to that tone. I still disagree with how this ruling was cast, but it doesn't fall out of accordance.

Daniel Jun said...

Our founding fathers' potential opinions don't matter at this point. This isn't me being unpatriotic, just stating that the difference in world view between denizens of worlds 3 centuries apart is palpable and thus should not be used as evidence either for or against this style of divvying up representation.
I personally believe that counting every single resident in terms of redistricting makes very little sense. It is hard to make this argument without sounding incredibly elitist, but voters should be the ones who are counted, not everyone. The US already has a large percentage of people being indifferent in voting, and giving disproportionately large sway to the few who do vote is undemocratic. Or is it? Many people are allowed to vote, but choose not to. But this isn't the main point of the article. The main point is that this new system amplifies the potential for disproportional representation.

Jack Loar said...

I feel slightly conflicted on this issue. While I agree that it is less democratic to count the districts based on population rather than eligible voters, I still see the advantage of organizing it be population. Each congressperson's decisions will represent the same number of people under their current system; however, Congresspeople mostly need to consider the opinions of voters when making decisions. Overall, it probably would have been best for the Supreme Court to rule the other way just to set a clear precedent for determining districts and to make the situation more democratic overall.

Jared Mayerson said...

I agree when Jack said that, "each congressperson's decisions will represent the same number of people under [Texas'] current system." Even if a district has fewer voters, if it has a higher population, more people are affected by a decision and should have a larger say. This is not the first time we have done this. Even though it's not exactly the same, we lowered the voting age to 18 because many people had to be included in the draft, even when they couldn't vote. A lot of people aged 18-20 had legislative actions enforced upon them even when they couldn't vote so they were given a (larger) say. Having a large amount of voters in a district is important but, in my opinion, making sure that everyone is represented should be our highest priority.