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SCOTUS Will Clarify 'One Person One Vote'

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By Peter Clarke, JD on June 03, 2015 12:56 PM

The principle of "one person, one vote" seems abundantly straightforward in principle. In application, this principle seems to elicit never-ending conflict. In Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court will have another say in the matter.

The desire for a vote to be heard is presumably driven by a desire for fairness. That's the underlying basis of the appellant's argument: the current voting arraignment for state Senate districts in Texas in not fair.

Number of People or Number of Voters?

The appellants in this case take issue with the fact that Senate districts in Texas are currently determined by the raw population of a district, rather than the number of eligible voters. This may sound like splitting hairs, and it probably would be for many districts, but not so in this case, the appellants claim.

In Texas, certain locations are bloated by large numbers of people who are not eligible to vote. A brief by the Cato Institute explained that the votes of Hispanic voters are too heavily weighted in certain areas because their large populations only sustain a relatively small number of people who are actually eligible to vote.

Garrett Epps, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, reads into the intent of the Cato Institute's brief with his statement that redrawing lines in this nature "would produce districts that are older, whiter, richer, and more likely to vote Republican."

What's Fair for the People?

Aside from the motives and the intentions of the appellants, is there a clear way to say what's fair for everyone? This is the question that SCOTUS will have to answer. Although Americans value votes as a matter of principle, we don't view voters as any more valuable or noteworthy. A seventeen-year-old doesn't hold any less value as a person than an eighteen-year-old, even though only the latter can cast a vote.

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