Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision in Evenwel v. Abbott is a big victory for Democrats, and leaves alone the long-established understanding of “one person, one vote” guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and settled by the Court in the 1960s. The question at issue was what does “one person, one vote” actually mean? When creating legislative and congressional districts, do you count the number of people in the district, whether they can vote or not, or the number of eligible voters? The plaintiffs alleged that counting people dilutes the voting power of citizens residing in districts that are home to smaller concentrations of non-voting residents.
The partisan political issue in the case, and frankly, the reason that it was brought by the conservative “Project on Fair Representation”, is that a shift towards counting eligible voters and away from counting people, regardless of whether they can vote (think children, green card holders, prisoners, illegal immigrants) will mean that in many states there will be a shift of power away from urban areas (that generally have a higher percentage of non-eligible voters and tend to skew non-white and Democrat) towards rural areas (that tend to skew white and Republican). This was their ultimate aim. The court didn’t go there. Justice Ginsburg said that by counting all people in a district, it reflected the idea that “state legislators should be responsive to the concerns of all of their constituents, not just those who can vote.”
The unanimity of the decision means that the lack of an Obama Court nominee makes no difference to the outcome here. But, now conservatives are zero for two after this decision, and the recent union dues case, Freidrichs. These losses, plus a somewhat likely Clinton-Trump match-up in the General Election (though we’ll see what happens in the Wisoncin primary…) can only increase pressure on the GOP to halt their obstructionism and salvage what they can from a Garland appointment.