Coloring Outside the Lines: Erasing 'One-Person, One-Vote' & Voting Rights Act Line-Drawing Dilemmas by Erasing District Lines
35 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 5, 2016
In this article, Prof. Mulroy discusses the controversy raised by the Supreme Court decision in Evenwel v. Abbott over the use of total population versus voter population in measuring “one person, one vote” claims. The issue can affect various analogous questions concerning the use of total population, voting age population (VAP), and citizen voting age population (CVAP) in minority vote dilution suits under the Voting Rights Act. Generally, total population is preferable for one person, one vote claims, as well as evaluating “proportionality” under the Voting Rights Act, while VAP should be used for establishing a prima facie case of minority vote dilution, and CVAP in the remedial phase of Voting Rights Act litigation. More fundamentally, though, these controversies underscore the inherent arbitrariness of districting: whenever we carve up a jurisdiction into districts, tensions are unavoidable between representational fairness based on total population versus various measure of eligible voters. These tradeoffs are avoided through the use of nondistrict election systems like limited voting, cumulative voting, and rank choice voting, which tend to elect candidates in rough proportion to their share of the electorate, enhance minority and gender diversity of elected officials, and promote turnout, among numerous other advantages. The recent controversy sparked by the Evenwel litigation thus serves as a reminder of yet another reason to consider these alternative electoral systems, either through voluntary adoption or as potential remedies in voting rights litigation.
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