Posted by Drew Spencer Penrose on April 05, 2016
This week the legal field was treated to a rare event: a politically contentious issue getting a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court. In an 8-0 opinion, the Court held that Texas does not have to make any attempt to equalize voting power among its state legislative districts: the ordinary use of total population is acceptable. Although it narrowly left open the possibility that states may consider equality of voters between districts, the opinion was highly skeptical of any population measure aside from total population.
This case highlights some important issues inherent in the use of districts to elect legislators. As Rob Richie explained in the Washington Post in October, 2015, we could equalize voting power and total population if we moved beyond winner-take-all elections and instead of electing exclusively in single-winner districts, made use of fair representation voting. Then, instead of squabbles over the proper denominators when dividing populations, we could truly empower voters and have fairer and more effective legislative bodies from city councils to Congress.