By Catherine Turcer, Policy Analyst Common Cause Ohio
Today the U.S. Supreme Court in Evenwel v. Abbott voted unanimously (8-0) to allow states to continue to count total population when drawing state legislative districts after each census. The plaintiffs sought an unprecedented change to the U.S. Constitution forbidding states from using census counts of total population and requiring them to draw districts with equal number of voters. The cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo joined 15 other counties and cities across the country to oppose this change.
Background: The Supreme Court voted 8-0 today in Evenwel v. Abbott to allow – but not require – states to count every resident when reshaping state legislative districts after each census. The plaintiffs urged the court to declare that the U.S. Constitution requires that states fashion districts based on their number of voters, a change which would have left communities with large concentrations of non-voters – such as the young and non-citizen residents - severely underrepresented in state legislatures. Taxpayer dollars for things like schools and roads now flow to districts based on their total population, not just their eligible-to-vote counts; if districts were drawn based only on eligible voters, millions of lawful permanent residents and everyone under age 18 could be left out. That means that vital public services used by everyone – like schools, fire and police protection, and roads – would be spread unevenly, with the largest share of money going to areas with a higher voting age population.
Michael Li and Eric Petry from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University wrote a compelling explanation of how this court battle could have dramatically change redistricting.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a fundamental constitutional value that every person counts--not just voters. Ohioans will need to turn our attention to the newly created Ohio Redistricting Commission and monitor any efforts to deprive millions of young people, non-citizen residents, and other non-voters of those constitutional protections. We the People means everyone who lives within a district is a constituent, not just those who vote. We don’t deny a child police protection because they are not registered to vote, so why would we deny fair representation in the General Assembly based on who is registered and who is not?”
The opinion written by Justice Ruth Ginsberg is available here.