Thursday, May 28, 2015
When Does One Equal One?
Last week, the United States Supreme Court agreed, in the 2015-2016 term, to review the question presented in Evenwel v. Abbott, an interesting case which will essentially present the question of “when does one equal one?”
Typically every 10 years, state legislatures redistrict in order to balance the populations in the various districts, thereby assuring, within some measure, that each state representative or senator represents an equal number of state citizens. This “one-person, one-vote” requirement follows from the decision from the United States Supreme Court in 1964 named Reynolds v. Sims. The question arises as to what measure should be used in making those determinations. For example, the state could look at the total population of the state and then, as equally as possible, divide them among districts. Alternatively, a state may use the registered voters as the measure against which population is divided. Another possibility would be to utilize the number of persons eligible to be registered to vote, i.e. base apportionment upon the voting-age population.
Curious distinctions can flow from which measure is used. For example, if the voting age population is used rather than the number of registered voters, it is possible to create a district in which there are relatively fewer voters consequent to the fact that the district also holds a prison; the residents thereof will be of voting age, but they will not be eligible to vote. Conversely, working from the assumption that voter registration increases in proportion to age, a large retirement development would be afforded more weight than would be a significant apartment development inhabited by recent college graduates and other young professionals.