Case Summary

When Texas redrew its legislative districts following the 2010 census, it adopted a State Senate map that had a maximum population deviation of 8.04% when measured using total population as a base, but when measured using voter-population as a base the maximum deviation was more than 40%. A group of voters in districts with large eligible and registered-voter populations filed a federal lawsuit against various state election officials, alleging that basing apportionment on total population diluted their votes as compared to voters in other Senate Districts, thereby violating the one-person, one vote principle under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs sought an injunction barring the State from using the existing Senate map in favor of a map that would equalize the voter populations in each district.

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendant-state officials, holding that the constitution permits, but does not require, States and localities to apportion and draw their legislative districts on the basis of total population. The Court explained that when debating what would become the 14th Amendment, Congress explicitly rejected proposals to apportion House seats to States on the basis of voter population because they recognized that a total-population baseline best served the principle of "representational equality." Furthermore, it is now longstanding practice for States to establish legislative and congressional districts, and for courts to evaluate those districts' compliance with one person, one vote, on the basis of total population, and the Court declined to adopt voter-eligible-based apportionment as a constitutional command when doing so would upset such a widespread, well-functioning approach.

Significance: The one person, one vote constitutional principle does not require states to use voter-eligible population as the basis for reapportioning legislative districts.

Case Library

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division - 1:14-cv-00335 (Evenwel v. Perry)

U.S. Supreme Court - No. 14-940 [136 S.Ct. 1120 (2016)]