Evenwel v. Abbott is a U.S. Supreme Court case on redistricting that threatened every person’s right to fair representation. The plaintiffs challenged the long-standing practice in the United States of counting every person when drawing state legislative districts and sought to require states to count only eligible voters. The Court rejected this radical constitutional change and ruled 8-0 that states are allowed to continue counting total population.
Today, almost all state and local jurisdictions already draw electoral districts based on total population. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution requires that total population be used when allocating congressional districts to the fifty states. That way, elected leaders represent equal numbers of people in each district. The Supreme Court has recognized that the right to equal representation demands that redistricting, whether at the state or congressional levels, be based on “We the People,” not some subset of the population.
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At its heart, Evenwel is about whether or not every person in the United States will continue to be guaranteed representation by our elected leaders. If plaintiffs had succeeded, a constitutional contradiction will be created, whereby different standards are used for the drawing of congressional and state legislative districts. In addition to the logistical obstacles rendered by this lack of uniformity, it would leave residents of communities with a relatively high percentage of non-voters (such as children) at a disadvantage when seeking funding for essential state services such as education, water, police, and fire departments.