At least once per decade, following the Census, most of these district lines are redrawn in order to ensure that each district’s population is roughly equivalent, living up to the constitutional command of “one person, one vote.” See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 583-84 (1964). There are relatively few federal requirements governing the conduct of redistricting.
In Evenwel v. Abbott, appellants, residents in a rural Texas legislative district urged the Supreme Court tohold that Texas’ use of total population as a basis for drawing state legislative districts violated the Equal Protection Clause and its principle of “one person, one vote.” Instead, appellants claimed, that principle required Texas to base districting solely on a population of eligible voters, thereby excluding all nonvoters such as children and immigrants.Had appellants prevailed, they would have wrought a radical revolution that overruled 50 years of Supreme Court decisions, beginning with Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533(1964), and overturned the redistricting methods used in all 50 states. In Texas and other states, legislative representation would have been transferred from more populous urban districts to less populous rural districts, thus undoing the reapportionment revolution of the 1960s.
In doing so, the opinion of the Court relied on and affirmed the democratic value of representational equality. But the Court left for another day whether states will be able to use alternative metrics to manipulate the allocation of voting power, and the concurring opinions indicate that the views on that issue are not so unanimous.In Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), the Court held that Equal Protection prohibits “malapportionment,” meaning that states generally must apportion districts to equalize population in each district. Since then, states have almost uniformly used total population, based on the decennial census, as the basis for apportionment.
Pick your headline about the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling inEvenwel v. Abbott, No. 14-940, which held that reapportionment of state and local legislaturesmaybe based on total Census-counted population, and rejected the argument that it mayonlybe based on a count of citizens of voting-age:Supreme Court: Illegals Can be Counted in Redistricting!Supreme Court Rejects Conservative Attempt to Disenfranchise Children!The case was laden with controversy, because choosing whom to count when reapportioning legislatures goes to the very heart of representative government by determining who is included in “We the People.” Starting with theConstitution's preamble and formalized in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause which protects all persons, not only citizens, our traditions and the Supreme Court have viewed "person" expansively, culminating withReynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 577 (1964), announcing the oft-repeated"one-person, one-vote" standard, whichrequires state legislatures be apportioned based on population. Prior toReynolds, the houses of many state legislatures appoertioned like the U.S. Senate, where each county or other political subdivision was entitled to representation.