Still One Person One Vote

Remember Edward Blum? He’s the retired stockbroker who, with the financial backing of several conservative donors, has been pumping named plaintiffs into some recent high-profile civil rights challenges that have landed before the U.S. Supreme Court  – namely, the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case and the Shelby County v. Holder voting rights case.

Well, Blum lost one this week, as the Court declined to take another of his cases, Lepak v. City of Irvingwhich challenged the the basic democratic principle of “One Person, One Vote.”

In Irving, Tex., the City Council’s six districts have close to the same number of people. But in one heavily Hispanic district only about half the number of people were eligible to vote. “The political power of voters in that district is therefore amplified. Think of it as ‘one person two votes,’” Adam Liptak wrote in the The New York Times in March.

Voters from the other districts sued to challenge that district’s strength based upon these arguments, as summarized by Emily Phelps at the Constitutional Accountability Center:

At issue in Lepak was whether state and local governments should be constitutionally required to draw voting districts according to the geographic distribution of eligible voters, rather than the distribution of the population itself, with youth, non-citizens and other non-voters included in the count as they have been since time immemorial. Though the Constitution clearly states –twice, and decisively—that it’s persons who must be equally represented on electoral maps, Blum and the plaintiffs here argued that high concentrations of non-citizen immigrants in certain areas were effectively undermining the voting power of voters in more homogenous districts of adult citizens.

The court’s refusal to hear the case is a victory for voting rights advocates, who viewed the challenge as likely to lead to a dangerous shift of power “away from cities and neighborhoods with many immigrants and many children and toward the older, whiter, more exclusively native-born areas in which a higher proportion of the total population consists of eligible voters,” wrote University of Texas at Austin law professor Joseph R. Fishkin in the Yale Law Journal last year.

 

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