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One Person, One Vote


I deeply admire Hans von Spakovsky, and I join him in worrying about the extent to which the Voting Rights Act is being used as an instrument to further partisan interests. The Republicans in the South, particularly, have benefited from the racial gerrymandering that has “bleached” districts surrounding those designed to be safe for black and Hispanic candidates. On the other hand, racially gerrymandered districts that have created safe minority seats have consequently been safe for Democratic candidates. And recent arguments that “influence districts” (those in which minority voters influence the outcome even though they are a numerical minority) cannot be altered without violating the statute are an attempt to augment Democratic Party strength.

When a city like Irving, Texas, draws districts in which the Hispanic citizen voting-age population is unequally distributed, the map may violate the Voting Rights Act (unsettled law). But the plan does not violate the constitutional “one man, one vote” principle, and the plaintiffs in the Texas case cannot argue that it does.

The equal population principle, which determines how many congressional seats Texas will have after the 2010 census, for instance, was spelled out in Reynolds v. Sims (1964).

“The fundamental principle of representative government is one of equal representation for equal numbers of people, without regard to race, sex, economic status, or place of residence within a state.” The framers knew, an appeals court explained in a later case (Fair v. Klutznick, 1980), that apportionment on the basis of “one person, one vote” would mean that categories of people ineligible to vote – women, children, bound servants, convicts, the insane, and, at a later time, aliens – would be counted. Nevertheless, they declared that government should represent all the people.


I hate to disagree with Hans, and it’s a small point, but one that may confuse many readers.


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