Supreme Court ruling on voting representation brings more questions

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on April 4 that states may count all residents, not only eligible voters, in drawing election districts so that they are all approximately the same size. The decision was hailed as an affirmation of the equal-representation principle, but it raises rather than resolves the question of who has the right to be heard in state legislatures, city councils and the like.

The court declined to require states to essentially reduce the number of districts in areas with disproportionate numbers of non-voters—which can include children, the “mentally incompetent,” immigrants who have not obtained citizenship and those who have lost their voting rights because of criminal convictions. But the court did not prohibit this practice either. As The Wall Street Journal editorialized, approvingly, “That leaves the door open for states to experiment with their own apportionment metrics in the future.”

Advertisement

The United States does not need this kind of experimentation. There is no ethical or moral justification for shifting political power—and, inevitably, government funding that is often awarded on the basis of legislative seats—to communities that have few children or that discourage group facilities such as halfway houses for ex-offenders. The misleadingly named Project on Fair Representation, which advocates such a shift and has also challenged the Voting Rights Act, may be back before the Supreme Court in support of any state that takes up The Wall Street Journal’s challenge. If that happens, we hope for a more conclusive, and a more inclusive, decision.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pa., speaks during a meeting in late January at the headquarters of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
“I think we need complete transparency if we’re going to get the trust of the people back,” said Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico.
Mélanie Thierry as Marguerite Duras in “Memoir of War.” © Music Box Films
The film tells the story of a woman who worked for the German-controlled Vichy government but secretly joined the Resistance movement.
A. W. Richard Sipe (photo: Facebook)
Sipe's research into celibacy and priestly sexual behavior helped guide the work of church leaders and others responding to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Catholic News ServiceAugust 17, 2018
Did Pope Francis depart from Scripture and tradition in declaring the death penalty "inadmissible"? Or was his declaration rooted deeply in both?
Tobias WinrightAugust 17, 2018