Supreme Court rejects voting rights challenge: the Yakima connection

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Architect of the Capitol via USCapitol Flickr.
The U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo by Architect of the Capitol via Flickr.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously rejected an effort to exclude non-citizens, non-voters and children from government representation — an effort that had been backed by the previous Yakima City Council after the city lost its own federal court fight over fair representation.

In Evenwel v. Abbott, Texas voters Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger challenged the notion that total population — including non-voters, non-citizens, children and others who do not vote — should determine the size and drawing of districts in the Texas Senate. Most jurisdictions count everyone when determining the size of districts, under the principle of one-person, one-vote.

Eventwel and Pfenninger argued that only voting-eligible people should be counted, and that including the entire population violated the rights of voters under the Equal Protections Clause.

The Supreme Court justices rejected that argument 8-0, saying that jurisdictions cannot be required to consider only the population of eligible voters when drawing districts. However, Matt Ford in The Atlantic points out that the court did not rule that jurisdictions must count everyone — only that they are allowed to do so.

If the challengers had won, the change would have favored an older and whiter population, who tend to be registered voters.

The City of Yakima in 2015 had filed a brief supporting Evenwel’s arguments. The city’s lawyers filed that brief after a federal judge had ruled that Yakima’s at-large city council elections violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino vote. The judge imposed a new council election system but the city’s lawyers filed an appeal that hinged on whether Evenwel would win in the Supreme Court case.

However, the current Yakima City Council — who took office under the new system and with its first three Latina councilmembers elected in its history — has been expected to make the Evenwel case irrelevant anyway. The Yakima City Council had been expected to withdraw its appeal in the Voting Rights Act case as soon as this week.


U.S. Supreme Court: Evenwel v. Abbott

VoxThe Supreme Court just shut down the demographic equivalent of gerrymandering

The AtlanticOne Person, One Vote, Eight Justices

The Seattle Globalist: Yakima to consider dropping Voting Rights Act appeal