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Evenwel v. Abbott

Political Participation | Redistricting

The Texas Legislature reapportioned its state senate districts following the 2010 U.S. Census. As states have done for more than 50 years, Texas drew its senate districts based on Census total population data so that each district contains a substantially equal number of people (within the +/- 10% deviation norm for state legislative redistricting); however, the districts contain a somewhat different number of “eligible voters”.

Two plaintiffs sued Texas, arguing that the State should use an undefined and new standard of “eligible voters,” instead of total population, for state legislative redistricting. Specifically, plaintiffs claim that their votes are worth less than people in other districts (namely urban areas) because they live in districts (namely rural areas) that are comparatively overpopulated with voters, thereby diluting the impact of their individual vote. The “eligible voter” measure for state redistricting that plaintiffs seek, however, would exclude 75 million children and millions of other people from the apportionment count.

A three-judge federal district court dismissed the claim and plaintiffs appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 8, 2015, the Court heard oral argument in this case, Evenwel v. Abbott. The primary question before the U.S. Supreme Court is whether state legislative apportionment based on total population satisfies the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It does. 

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