May 26, 2015

SCOTUS to take Texas redistricting case — Voting Rights Act tie-in?

This should be interesting.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Texas voting case, Evenwel, where plaintiffs argue that voting district reapportionment, in this case a state senate district, should be done on the basis of potential voters, not general population.

Part of the key to Evenwel goes back years, as Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog notes. Who is a "voter" for terms of equal apportionment of electoral districts. Is it any person? Any person who's eligible to vote? Registered voters only? A running average of actual voter turnout?

In the past, the Supreme Court has said that states are NOT required to include aliens, transients, felons barred from voting, and other things, and had indicated that within this, states had some latitude. So, he's surprised that this portion of Evanwel may come into play.

Hasen's co-blogger, Richard Pildes disagrees, as he says it's not surprising the Supremes took this case and he hopes we get a clear, uniform standard from it. He stands in part on Voting Rights Act issues, noting Sims and most other cases were adjudicated before the 1965 Act, let alone later amendments, were adopted.

I'm not sure of what mind I am.

I agree with Hasen that there's clear precedent here. On the other hand, per Pildes, I can see that not addressing this could bring "minority voter dilution" issues into play. Of course, those issues could get worse if SCOTUS mandates national use of "potential voters" for redistricting.

Given that, per the top link, Clarence Thomas reportedly rounded up three fellow justices to vote to grant cert, I'm sure that's what the far right on the court intends. Scalia and Alito probably agree with Thomas. Either Roberts or Kennedy may have been the fourth vote, not because they agree, but because they want clear standards, especially re the Voting Rights Act.

That said, knowing the Chief's stance on it, he'll vote for the plaintiffs, leaving Kennedy as the presumed swing vote.

One would assume the plaintiffs are hoping this is what the granting of cert indicates, given the legal team backing them and previous cases with their involvement.

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