NEW YORK, NY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a bipartisan coalition of 21 states filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the states’ practice of including both voters and nonvoters in drawing state legislative election districts. The brief argues that counting nonvoters with voters in redistricting promotes the democratic principle of ensuring fair and effective representation of all people in state government and has proven to be a workable, reliable and non-partisan process.
“This case is about a bedrock principle of our democracy – ensuring that every American is represented,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “States across our country have long drawn legislative district lines based on a district’s total population. This process has ensured that the interests of all – even those who cannot vote – are represented in our democracy. We urge the Supreme Court to retain a standard that helps ensure fair and effective representation for all.”
Attorney General Schneiderman submitted the brief in the case of Evenwel v. Abbott. In this redistricting case, the plaintiffs argue that Texas was required to draw its state senate districts based on the number of “eligible voters” rather than the total number of people living in the state. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held that Texas was permitted to equalize the population of its state senate districts based on the state’s total population, and was not required to equalize the number of “eligible voters.” This ruling is consistent with uniform federal precedent.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a bipartisan coalition of 21 states filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the states’ practice of including both voters and nonvoters in drawing state legislative election districts. Photo: http://www.ag.ny.gov/
New York’s amicus brief argues that adoption of plaintiffs’ theory “would fundamentally upend the states’ redistricting practices” and force them to abandon their use of total population in favor of an ‘eligible voter’ count – one that no existing source of data reliably provides. As the brief explains, the states have built “a unique and long-running collaboration” with the Census Bureau over the past 40 years that “ensures that states have accurate, useful, and neutral total-population counts on which to base redistricting.” Because the Census’s decennial enumeration does not provide states with any counts of voters, accepting plaintiffs’ theory would “throw state redistricting across the country into chaos.”
New York’s amicus brief, filed Friday, further argues that the states’ universal practice of redistricting based primarily on total population is “consistent with the principle that ‘equal representation for equal numbers of people’ ensures the ‘fair and effective representation’ of all persons served and affected by state government—including both voters and nonvoters.” The brief explains that the total-population model of redistricting both preserves equality among voters and recognizes the interests of many nonvoting groups in receiving representation —including children, adults not yet registered to vote, the mentally incompetent, noncitizens, people with past felony convictions, and incarcerated individuals. Further, states’ reliance on total population is consistent with the undisputed and constitutionally-mandated rule that representation in the federal House of Representatives must be divided based on the Census’s count of the total population in each state.
Attorney General Schneiderman’s brief is joined by 20 other states: Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Together with the state of Texas, the amici states represent 52% of the country’s population.
The brief in the case was prepared by New York Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood, Deputy Solicitor General Steven C. Wu, and Assistant Solicitor General Judith N. Vale, with the assistance of Kristen Clarke, Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau.