The latest Supreme Court ruling in the redistricting-related case Evenwel v. Abbott was nothing short of a total victory for voting rights advocates. Plaintiffs in Evenwel had unsuccessfully sought to systematically undermine minority representation, and subsequently elect more white Republicans, by requiring that legislative districts use eligible voters rather than the total population during redistricting. That would have dramatically shifted representation away from young, non-white, and urban populations to the benefit of older, whiter, rural areas and thus conservative Republicans in a state like Texas.
After Scalia’s death deprived conservatives of their 5-4 majority on the court, Evenwel was all but assured of going down in defeat as all four liberals were expected to rule against the plaintiffs. Additionally, Anthony Kennedy was also seen as skeptical of the plaintiffs’ position according to some election law experts. Even arch-conservative Clarence Thomas joined the entire court to uphold the current law, although Thomas ironically enough did so while disagreeing with the principle of one person, one vote itself. The current law allows the use of total population and has led to its adoption in all but a few exceptions where total population and eligible voters don’t largely diverge like they do in Texas. The court did not settle whether total population is required in all cases.
While completely expected, today’s ruling is nonetheless a welcome victory for voting rights advocates. When our electoral system is already massively biased against minority representation, it would have been an unmitigated disaster for Latinos in particular had the Evenwel ruling gone the other way.