October 21, 2015

By Jazmin Kay

Few cases in American legal history have had the potential to make such a profound impact on voter representation as Evenwel v. Abbott. In its upcoming term, the Supreme Court will hear a case on individual electoral value and local voting districting policies. Based on the argument of challenger Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger against the 2013 Texas Legislature’s enacted plan for local Senate district apportioning policies, the case has the ability to reshape voting eligibility not only in Texas, but across the Electoral College.

The principle of the argument is quite simple: when determining representation and appointing state legislative districts, the challengers say, districts should only count the number of registered and eligible voters rather than the total population. If the ruling were to be put in place, states using eligible voter quotas instead of total population of citizens in elections would likely benefits rural voters over urban voters, a move that, in turn, would likely help Republicans. As Slate wrote: “Urban areas are much more likely to be filled with people who cannot vote: noncitizens (especially Latinos), released felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and children.”

By basing political representation on eligible “citizen-age voting population” rather than total population, many experts believe that minority groups and young people will face increased discrimination. In particular, when talking about the case’s foreseen impact on immigrant and Latino voters, Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said Evenwel v. Abbott is merely “an attempt to cut back on growing Latino political strength in [Texas] by packing Latinos into a smaller number of districts”

While Perales’ statement may be true, it’s important to remember that Evenwel v. Abbott’s implications extend far beyond Texas: the case could dramatically alter what it means to be a representative democracy for years to come.

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