Brief of City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles, and 17 other Cities and Urban Areas

September 28, 2015

Common Cause organized an amicus brief signed by a diverse range of 19 cities and counties. The 8-0 judgment upholding the right of states to use total population when drawing state legislative districts discussed themes in this brief, including stating that nonvoters “have an important stake in many policy debates and in receiving constituent services.” This brief principally argues that redistricting based on voters would harm America’s cities and deny equal representation to their residents, both voters and nonvoters. The brief illustrates how a ruling in favor of the appellants would harm those that the “reapportionment revolution” was meant to help:

Because cities almost always have higher concentrations of non-voters than rural areas, a nationwide shift to an “eligible voters” rule would leave cities and their residents with less per capita representation than rural areas. As a result, cities would be systematically disadvantaged in the competition for state resources necessary to provide for their residents’ basic needs. Moreover, city-dwellers—both voters and nonvoters—would suffer diminished access to, and attention from, their state representatives, and would suffer similarly diminished access to already-strained city services. This denial of equal representation is only exacerbated by the exorbitant costs and practical difficulties of redistricting urban areas to equalize voting population—a mandate that would inevitably result in districts with wildly divergent total populations, convoluted boundaries that fail to preserve communities of interest or other traditional redistricting criteria, or both.

The cities, towns and counties further explain that the Founders recognized the right of all people – not merely voters – to equal representation. Indeed, this concept of “virtual representation,” legitimizes the gap between the voters who actually elect our leaders and the majority of people who do not or cannot vote. Specifically, that those “who pull the lever vote not only one their own behalf, but vicariously on behalf of their nonvoting children, friends, co-workers and neighbors.” In return, the officials chosen by those who vote, represent all persons within their district, regardless of whether they are eligible to vote, and regardless of whether they voted for the official in the prior election.

The counties and cities joining this brief are:

  • County of Los Angeles, California (population 10,116,705)
  • Cook County, Illinois (5,246,456)
  • City of Los Angeles, California (3,928,864)
  • Chicago, Illinois (2,722,389)
  • San Francisco, California (852,469)
  • Columbus, Ohio (835,957)
  • City of Baltimore, Maryland (622,793)
  • Atlanta, Georgia (456,002)
  • Cleveland, Ohio (389,521)
  • Toledo, Ohio (281,031)
  • Newark, New Jersey (280,579)
  • Salt Lake City, Utah (190,884)
  • Dayton, Ohio (141,003)
  • South Bend, Indiana (101,190)
  • Trenton, New Jersey (84,034)
  • Camden, New Jersey (77,332)
  • Plainfield, New Jersey (50,955)
  • Kearny, New Jersey (41,837)
  • City of Bridgeton, New Jersey (25,347)

Gregory L. Diskant, of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, serves as Counsel of Record on the brief, along with Jonah M. Knobler and Kathrina Szymborski. Counsel for amici curiae additionally includes the law departments of the cities and urban areas joined.

READ: Brief of 19 counties and cities

READ: Brief of City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles, and 17 other Cities and Urban Areas

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