Professor Nathaniel Persily on One Person, One Vote

Professor Nathaniel Persily on One Person, One Vote

Blog Post

A four-minute presentation on redistricting by Professor Nathaniel Persily, published on YouTube on February 10, 2016. 


Election Law: One Person, One Vote

Nathaniel Persily

Ordinarily we think of democracy as voters choosing their representatives but in the redistricting process this is where politicians choose their voters and sometimes that decision is even more important than how the ballots are cast since over 85% of our elections are not competitive in the general election how we choose to divide up our constituencies often can be more important than who wins at the ballot box

Redistricting and Shifting Power 

We've seen over the last ten, twenty, thirty years that battles over redistricting often will determine partisan composition of legislators and which policies are actually going to be passed by different legislators and parties and control of state government

Drawing District Lines: Eligible Voters or People? 

Well the Supreme Court this year has a very interesting case where they're revisiting the fundamental question of one-person one-vote what they're asking is whether you should draw districts around equal numbers of people or equal numbers of eligible voters

Evenwel v. Abbot

So I filed a brief in Evenwel v Abbot on behalf of myself and other redistricting experts arguing that you cannot actually draw districts around equal numbers of eligible voters that we in the United States don't even have a national list of who is an eligible voter let alone a citizen and so this is one of those rare cases where the argument that the appellant is making is actually not only wrong but it's impossible: You can't draw districts around equal numbers of eligible voters. No state can because the data aren't available.

The Importance of SCOTUS "One Person, One Vote" Cases

so in the 1960s the Supreme Court came down with a series of decisions called the one-person one-vote cases which required that states draw districts of equal population and the reason this was a radical move was that up until that time many states had actually modeled their constitutions on the US Senate so they had one County one vote let's say instead of one person one vote and Chief Justice Warren Warren actually said that the one-person one-vote cases were the most important of his tenure even more important than Brown versus Board of Education and he said that because he felt that once you give people equal political equality then they can defend themselves in the political process against other types of discrimination

Race and Redistricting

when it comes to race and redistricting it's been a very hot area at the Supreme Court in recent years where the Supreme Court struck down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act which many thought was really the core of the 1965 Act which would prevent jurisdictions particularly in the south from discriminating on the basis of race and and making the position worse off for African Americans in particular

Roberts Court and the Voting Rights Act

the Shelby County case is seen by many as one of the most important decisions of the Roberts Court and the reason is is that it constricted Congress in its ability to protect civil rights and in particular voting rights. The Voting Rights Act was seen as the shining example of congressional power to enforce civil rights and if that's unconstitutional then there's real concern that a lot of other civil rights laws might be vulnerable as well

Partisanship in the Redistricting Process

Right now not only our scholars and advocates looking at the questions of race and redistricting but they continue to look at the question of partisanship in the redistricting process when do state legislatures or parties that dominate state legislatures go too far in discriminating against their political opponents but we're seeing with several court cases that are going to the Supreme Court and into the lower courts that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy and so a lot of scholars are trying to figure out what are the appropriate types of institutions for different states to try to control the partisan excesses in the redistricting process because something does need to be done because we actually had a situation where a majority of votes was cast for the Democratic Party in the 2012 election and yet they got a minority of seats in Congress

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