The Supreme Court rejects an attempt to disenfranchise immigrant communities

Supreme Court of the United States.
Supreme Court of the United States.

The Constitution allocates the number of Congressional representatives for each state based on the number of people counted in the Census. The Census counts the total number of people for representative purposes, not just the number of voters.

Most states use the same approach internally in drawing up legislative districts. State legislators are apportioned in New York based on the number of people living in an area. This is referred to as the “one-person one-vote” system of apportionment.

In the case before the Supreme Court, a conservative organization had challenged this practice. In Evenwel v. Abbott the anti-immigrant group argued that only people eligible to vote should count towards representation in Congress and in the state legislatures. This would have ruled out counting immigrants, including Lawful Permanent Residents, in drawing up legislative districts.

The impact of the case going the other way would have been devastating for communities of color. State representation would have been moved from areas with large numbers of immigrants to whiter areas.

One-person one-vote was adopted after the passage of the 15th Amendment giving non-whites the right to vote soon after the Civil War. The anti-immigrant group wanted to prohibit this historic means of apportionment and substitute one based only on eligible voters. Justice Ginsburg noted in her decision that “adopting voter-eligible apportionment as constitutional command would upset a well-functioning approach to districting that all 50 States and countless local jurisdictions have followed for decades, even centuries.” She wrote, “states and localities may comply with the one-person, one-vote principle by designing districts with equal total populations.”

This is an important victory for those who believe that minority communities deserve the sort of legislative representation that the framers of the 15th Amendment intended a century and a half ago.

Read more in this New York Times story, HERE.


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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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