A Supreme Court decision cements a political map-drawing practice giving disproportionate influence to voters in Democratic-dominated areas with large numbers of illegal immigrants diluting the strength of voters in GOP-leaning places dominated by citizens. The result: More seats in Congress for Democrats.
At issue in the case, handed down April 4, was the decades-old concept of “one man, one vote,” in which the courts long have held that legislative districts must have a roughly equal number of people to ensure that the votes of each citizen carry the same weight. A pair of Texas voters argued that using population totals from the U.S. Census Bureau — without regard to whether those residents are eligible to vote — gives undo influence to districts packed with illegal immigrants who cannot vote.
Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, noted that some Texas legislative districts have as many as 40 percent more eligible voters than others because of the impact of immigration.
“The gaps between eligible voters district by district were so wide … the court has never sanctioned a gap in voter eligibility that stark,” said Blum, whose organization represented plaintiffs Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger.
Had the high court sided with the plaintiffs, according to political scientists, the partisan impact would have favored Republicans by shifting power away from urban regions to rural areas. But Jon Feere, a legal analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies, said a more fundamental principle was at stake.
“The overall shift would be that citizens, registered voters, would have a greater impact on our political process,” he said. “And I don’t see that as a bad thing.”
The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, may not be the last word on the matter. The 8-0 ruling neither gave a victory to the plaintiffs nor delivered the sweeping ruling favored by the Obama administration. The decision held that Texas was within its rights to draw legislative districts using census figures, but the court did not rule that the 14th Amendment requires that method. The justices left that determination for another day.
“I suspect that a case like that will make it before the Supreme Court in the not-too-distant future,” Feere said.
[lz_table title=”Democratic Increase from Current System” source=”Klarnerpolitics.com”]Body,increase
U.S. House Districts,1.13%
State Senate Districts,1.18%
State House Districts,1.39%
|Biggest Democratic Benefit
Using only the citizen voting age population as the basis for redistricting would cost Democrats seats at the both the state and federal levels, according to an analysis by political scientist Carl Klarner. He calculated that the percentage of the population represented by Democrats would fall by a little more than 1 percent for state house seats, state senate seats and seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The impact would be most pronounced in Texas, Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada, New York and other immigrant-heavy states.
The case had nothing to do with how congressional seats are apportioned from state to state. But Ian Smith, investigative associate for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said similar arguments could be made.
“The logic can extend quite easily to a much broader challenge,” he said.
There is little doubt that immigration — both legal and illegal — has magnified the strength of states with large numbers of people who are ineligible to participate in elections. A 2013 analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies concluded that the presence of 22.5 million legal and illegal immigrants resulted in a shift of nine congressional seats after the 2010 census.
[lz_table title=”Impact of Non-citizens on Reapportionment” source=”Center fo Immigration Studies”]Winners,House seats
Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania each would have an additional seat without the immigration impact. Immigration allowed Florida, New York, Texas and California gain seats they would not have, otherwise.
Including immigrants who have become citizens, the total impact is 18 congressional seats. Sixteen of those seats went to states that voted for President Obama in 2012, meaning that immigration gives Democratic-leaning states additional votes in the Electoral College.
The debate is similar to the one at the birth of the nation when Southern states wanted their slaves to count for purposes of congressional apportionment, even though they could not vote. That is where the Three-Fifths Compromise came from.
“The slaveholding states have been replaced by Democrats,” said Smith, whose group filed a friend-of-the court brief in favor of Evenwel and Pfenninger.