There’s a legal theory from the far right fringe that, like most legal theories from the far right fringe, is taken seriously by very few people but, unfortunately, those few include the five conservative justices on the US Supreme Court. Thus why a case the justices heard oral argument for this week, Evenwel v. Abbott should be scary.
This isn’t the usual sort of disenfranchisement, where right the right to vote is taken away from some people, coincidentally always people who tend not to vote for conservative candidates. This time, the plaintiffs are arguing that the idea of “one, person, one vote” for drawing districts means only eligible voters count. Anyone not eligible to vote would literally be discounted. Such persons would include non-citizens, ex-felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and all children. It just so happens that Latinos are more likely to be under 18 than other people. The effect of drawing districts this way would be to give disproportionate representation to districts that are older and whiter.
Aren’t the conservative legal activists pushing this change aware of the effect? Of course they are. As always when conservatives start mucking around with elections and voting, disenfranchisement is a feature, not a bug. As with other high profile cases, the law doesn’t really matter. Ideology rules for the five justices from the extreme right side of the political spectrum, and the rest of us are left hoping in each case one justice can’t stomach so much twisting of the law for judicial activism, or has some personal experience to awaken them to their decision’s effect.
With the court having had a conservative majority my entire adult life, it’s hard to believe it was only because of another decision, Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, that districts had to have the same number of people in them. It was somewhere between frequent and normal that districts were drawn to guarantee rural areas were overrepresented, like assigning one representative per county. Yes, the county with 1,000,000 and the county with 10,000 would get the same representation, and conservatives of the time thought it made sense to protect the ability of thinly populated rural areas to outvote their state’s metro area. What the plaintiffs seek in Evenwel v. Abbot isn’t as drastic as that, being more like a sort of automatic gerrymandering, but the point is that only a court as fringe-friendly as this one would even take the case seriously.
And here’s where we get to where I get ticked off with some of my fellow Democrats. Whether you just lean Democratic or you’re a progressive activist, you should be thinking about the Supreme Court in the next election because the only way to change this destructive court is to hang on to the presidency long enough to flip the majority. Maybe the current court will see through the most recent legal twaddle, as they do once in a happy while, but they’ve allowed so much that if you aren’t holding your breath when these cases from the extreme right come up, then you aren’t paying attention. Whatever you think of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or Martin O’Malley, they’re not crazy, and they’re not irresponsible. None of them would appoint another Antonin “slower-track” Scalia. So why would you even think about refusing to vote if you don’t get your candidate nominated? Voting is the least you can do, and I do mean the least. If you won’t knock doors or put up signs or something to pick the person who picks the next justices, you’re becoming the walking embodiment of “self-defeating”. You’re going to get more decisions like Shelby County, Heller, Citizens United, and of course Bush V Gore.
Personally, I’ll be helping whoever gets nominated, because I’ve had it with just hoping there’s one conservative justice who realizes that those ineligible to vote count too and we haven’t been doing it wrong all this time.
From Dan Burns: I have to share this effective bit of satire: “Scalia Better Off In ‘Less Advanced’ Court.”
American government, including SCOTUS, has always been disproportionately conservative. Addressing that is extremely challenging (though always worth pursuing anyway, in any way possible), because it’s so much easier to block lasting, positive change than it is to make it happen. The chances of constitutional amendments (much less a constitutional convention) to, for example, term-limit SCOTUS justices (the best argument I’ve seen is for 16 years), or change the composition of the grossly anti-democratic U.S. Senate (say, one per state, the other fifty apportioned by total population), unfortunately appear to be infinitesimal for another decade at the very, very least.
I’m not too worried about partisans costing us the White House by sitting out in a snit if they don’t get their man or woman on the ballot. You may recall that the purity crowd was going to teach us all a lesson by not voting Obama in 2012, as he had strayed from the perfect path far too often, and it didn’t make a damn bit of difference.