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- Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, The Cato Institution
On May 23, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Wittman v. Personhuballah. In 2012, the Virginia State Legislature adopted a redistricting plan that altered the composition of the Third Congressional District by increasing the percentage of African-American voters in the district. In 2013, a number of Third District residents sued state election officials, arguing that the District was racially gerrymandered in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge district court agreed and held the redistricting plan to be unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that judgment and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of its intervening decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama. On remand, the district court again held that the redistricting plan was unconstitutional and ordered the Virginia General Assembly to devise a remedial plan. When the Assembly did not do so the court devised its own remedial plan and ordered election officials to implement it.
Ten Members of Congress from Virginia, intervenors in the District Court below, appealed its rejection of the 2012 plan to the Supreme Court, alleging various errors in the District Court’s reasoning. By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Breyer indicated that the intervenors lacked standing to pursue their appeal.
To discuss the case, we have Derek Muller, who is Associate Professor of Law at Pepperdine University School of Law.
On April 4, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Evenwel v. Abbott. As required by the Texas Constitution, the Texas legislature reapportioned its senate districts after the publication of the 2010 census, formally adopting an interim plan that had been put in place for the 2012 primaries. Plaintiffs, who are registered Texas voters, sued the Texas governor and secretary of state, asserting that the redistricting plan violated the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, by failing to apportion districts to equalize both total population and voter population. A three-judge district court ruled in favor of the state officials.
On appeal, the question before the Supreme Court was whether the three-judge district court correctly held that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause allows States to use total population, and does not require States to use voter population when apportioning state legislative districts.
By a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the three-judge district court. Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that constitutional history, precedent, and longstanding practice demonstrate that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population. The Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice GInsburg’s opinion for the Court. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Alito also filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which Justice Thomas joined except as to Part III-B.
To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is Partner at Baker & Hostetler, LLP.
On April 20, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, a case challenging Arizona's state legislative district map as partisan gerrymandering. Our expert discussed the opinion and what it means for the Court’s voting rights jurisprudence.
In an 8-0 judgement announced on April 4, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is permissible, but not mandatory, to draw legislative districts based on total population rather than on voting population. Our expert discussed Justice Ginsburg’s opinion, as well as the concurrences of Justices Thomas and Alito.