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    ‘One Person, One Vote’

    Supreme Court to Hear Arguments

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a voting rights case that has the potential to shift political power from urban areas to rural ones, a move that would provide a big boost to Republican voters in many parts of the nation.

    The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, will address a question many thought had been settled long ago: What is the meaning of the principle of “one person, one vote”?

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    The principle, rooted in cases from the 1960s that revolutionized democratic representation in the United States, applies to the entire American political system aside from the Senate, where voters from states with small populations have vastly more voting power than those with large ones. Everywhere else, voting districts must have very close to the same populations.

    But the Supreme Court has never definitively ruled on who must be counted: all residents or just eligible voters?

    The difference matters, because people who are not eligible to vote — children, immigrants here legally who are not citizens, unauthorized immigrants, people disenfranchised for committing felonies, prisoners — are not spread evenly across the country. With the exception of prisoners, they tend to be concentrated in urban areas.

    Their presence amplifies the voting power of people eligible to vote in urban areas, usually helping Democrats. Rural areas that lean Republican, by contrast, usually have higher percentages of residents eligible to vote.

    Tuesday’s case, a challenge to voting districts for the Texas Senate, was brought by Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, a small conservative advocacy group that has been active in cases concerning race and voting.

    The group was on the winning side in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. The group is also behind a challenge to affirmative action in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin to be argued on Wednesday.

    In court papers, Ms. Evenwel and Mr. Pfenninger said they live in “districts among the most overpopulated with eligible voters” and that “there are voters or potential voters in Texas whose Senate votes are worth approximately one and one-half times that of appellants.”

    Last year, a three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in Austin dismissed the case, saying that “the Supreme Court has generally used total population as the metric of comparison.” At the same time, the panel said, the Supreme Court has never required any particular standard. The choice, the panel said, belongs to the states.

    Almost all states and localities count everyone, and the Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each state” for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states. There are practical problems, many political scientists say, in finding reliable data to count only eligible voters.

    Federal appeals courts have uniformly ruled that counting everyone is permissible, and one court has indicated that it is required.

    In the process, though, several judges have acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s decisions provide support for both approaches. The federal appeals court in New Orleans said the issue “presents a close question,” partly because the Supreme Court had been “somewhat evasive in regard to which population must be equalized.”

    In 1990, Judge Alex Kozinski, in a partial dissent from a decision of the federal appeals court in San Francisco, said there were respectable arguments on both sides.

    Counting everyone, he said, ensures “representational equality,” with elected officials tending to the interests of the same number of people, whether they are voters or not. Counting only eligible voters, on the other hand, he said, vindicates the principle that voters “hold the ultimate political power in our democracy.”

    In 2001, the Supreme Court turned down an opportunity to decide the question, in another case from Texas.

    “The one-person-one-vote principle may, in the end, be of little consequence if we decide that each jurisdiction can choose its own measure of population,” Justice Thomas added. “But as long as we sustain the one-person-one-vote principle, we have an obligation to explain to states and localities what it actually means.”


    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/sup...d=ansmsnnews11
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