What Does Evenwel v. Abbott Mean For "One Person, One Vote?"
by Robert Thomas, InverseCondemnation, April 5, 2016
Yet another detour back to our second favorite topic, election law.
Casetext asked us to provide some commentary and analysis of the Supreme Court's recent Evenwel opinion, and we produced this piece ("What Does Evenwel v. Abbott Mean For 'One Person, One Vote?'"), which is a refinement of our earlier blog post containing our initial thoughts on the decision.
It's not a long piece and we hope you read it (even you land users and takings mavens, who may be asked about this big case at your next cocktail party -- all lawyers, after all, must be prepared at such events to respond to inquiries about every recent Supreme Court decision, even if they are far afield from your usual area of practice). The short answer to the question posed in the title is:
Evenwel has transformed the "one-person, one-vote'" rule in reapportionment cases into more of a "one-person, one-representative" principle.
What this means is that the Court unanimously affirmed the paramount role of representational equality in state reapportionment, concluding that "the body politic in the states is comprised of all persons present, regardless of citizenship or voting status," and that while voting power may have a role, it is secondary to the principle of equal representation for everyone:
At first blush, it may seem odd to conclude that those who are not U.S. citizens and those who are not eligible to vote are deserving of representation in our state legislatures—at least until one reads the text of the Equal Protection Clause and understands its long-standing judicial interpretation and sees that elected officials represent all “persons” in their jurisdictions, not only citizens or those who can elevate them to office. Evenwel thus was not a close call, and the unanimous Court held that "the rule appellants urge has no mooring in the Equal Protection Clause." Slip op. at 19.
We hope you check it out.