Supreme Court Rejects Radical Re-Write of Constitution in Evenwel Redistricting Case

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  • Kathay Feng

Today the U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-0 in Evenwel v. Abbott to allow states to continue to count total population when drawing state legislative districts after each census. The plaintiffs sought an unprecedented change to the U.S. Constitution forbidding states from using census counts of total population and requiring them to draw districts with equal number of voters. The City of Los Angeles was a lead drafter of a brief Common Cause organized that the Los Angeles County, San Francisco, and 16 other counties and cities across the country joined to oppose this change.

“Today, the Supreme Court upheld a fundamental constitutional value that every person counts,” said Kathay Feng, Common Cause national redistricting director and California Common Cause executive director.  “We now turn our attention to the states to monitor any efforts to deprive millions of young people, residents, and other non-voters of those constitutional protections. As a representative democracy, our country was built on the bedrock principle that we elect legislators to represent We the People – everyone who lives within a district is a constituent, not just those who vote.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote for the 8 justices of Supreme Court today:

“As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote.  See supra, at 8-12.  Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates – children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system – and in receiving constituent services, such as help navigating public-benefits bureaucracies.  By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total-population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation.  See McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257, 272 (1991) (“Serving constituents and supporting legislation that will benefit the district and individuals and groups therein is the everyday business of a legislator.”).” (Slip op. at 18-19.)

“Common Cause joined cities and counties across the country from Los Angeles and San Francisco to South Bend, Indiana and Atlanta, Georgia to argue that everyone – young, old, city-dwellers and small town residents – deserves equal representation when it comes to providing police, fire, schools, and other services,” said Nicolas Heidorn, California Common Cause policy and legislative counsel. “We don’t deny a child police protection because they are not registered to vote, so why would we deny fair representation in the California State Legislature based on who is registered and who is not?”