- Professor Bradley Jacob, Regent Law
On April 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. In 2012, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission redrew the map for the state legislative districts based on the results of the 2010 census. Wesley Harris and other individual voters sued the Commission and alleged that the newly redrawn districts were underpopulated in Democratic-leaning districts and over-populated in Republican-leaning ones and that the Commission had, therefore, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Commission countered that the population deviations were the result of attempts to comply with the Voting Rights Act. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the Commission.
On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court by a vote of 8-0. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court, which held that the federal district court did not err in upholding Arizona's redistricting plan. The challengers failed to demonstrate, the Court explained, that illegitimate considerations more likely than not were the predominant motivation for the plan's population deviations.
To discuss the case, we have Mark F. “Thor” Hearne, II, who is Partner at Arent Fox LLP.
What role does ignorance play in voting and political decision-making? Can political ignorance be rational? Is it good for society? Ilya Somin, professor of law at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, discusses the problems (and virtues) of political ignorance in a democracy and how we might mitigate negative consequences.
You might also be interested in Professor Somin's book on this topic: Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter.
In Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution’s one-person, one-vote rule allows States to draw their legislative districts based on total population. In doing so, the Court rejected the appellants’ argument that the one-person, one-vote rule protects eligible voters and thus required States to equalize the population of eligible voters, not total population. The Court explicitly declined to resolve whether States may draw districts to equalize voter-eligible population rather than total population.
Our experts analyzed the Supreme Court’s decision and reviewed the constitutional history underlying the one-person, one-vote doctrine. They discussed the impact of Evenwel on future redistricting decisions, including the Court’s willingness to accept legislative districts based on eligible voters.