The “one person, one vote” principle in operation since the 1960s has typically been interpreted to mean all persons — including people who cannot vote, such as children and non-citizens. The suit brought by Evenwel against the state of Texas seeks to change the definition to eligible voters.
The consequences of such a move are already being debated. Now, some new evidence from political scientist Carl Klarner suggests what the consequences would be: less voting power for Latinos and Democrats.
Klarner uses new data from the American Community Survey to estimate the hypothetical consequences of equalizing the number of eligible voters in each congressional and state legislative district. Here is what he finds:
…drawing districts on the basis of citizens of voting age would reduce the power of Democratic state legislators by 1.4% in state houses, 1.2% in state senates, and 1.1% in the U.S. House. The representation of Latino state house members would go from 8.4 to 7.4%, 6.7 to 5.8% in state senates, and 6.7 to 5.8% for the U.S. House as well.
The representation of African-American legislators would also decline, but by less than that of Latino legislators. Most of the impact of switching to eligible voters is due to excluding non-citizens, although excluding children matters too.
Who would benefit from a shift to eligible voters? Unsurprisingly, it’s whites who aren’t Hispanic:
White non-Latino majority districts currently represent 69.8% of the county in state houses, but would expand to 72.0% by excluding non-citizens and citizen children. Majority white non-Latino state senate districts would go from covering 71.6% to 73.7% of the country. For the U.S. House, the shift would go from 73.3% to 75.0% of the country.
Similar findings emerge in other analyses, including the Pew Research Center’s.
Of course, this is a hypothetical exercise. The devil would be in the proverbial details, as Stanford political scientist and law professor Nate Persily emphasizes by noting the shortcomings of the American Community Survey for redistricting.
To be sure, there is no clear signal that the Court will endorse the eligible voters definition. Nevertheless, this new battle suggests that what Rick Hasen has called our “Voting Wars” are far from over.