As if the Republicans haven’t already done enough to turn away Hispanic voters — and shallowly tried to make up for it by pushing their cute little first-Communion kid out on stage in the person of Marco Rubio — now they’re hot on the trail of a case that will go before the Supreme Court next term that could fundamentally change the way voting districts are drawn.
This is based on the transparently xenophobic suit brought by conservatives from Texas who claim that districts should be created not on the number of people living in it but on the number of eligible voters. No longer will it be one person, one vote, but one voter, one vote.
Adam Liptak at the New York Times sums it up.
The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.
A ruling that districts must be based on equal numbers of voters would move political power away from cities, with their many immigrants and children, and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas.
It’s not enough that the GOP has already rigged the voter registration rules to favor their party by basically re-instituting Jim Crow-levels of requirements for registering voters; now they want to claim that the only people who should be represented are voters, as if they are the only people who live in a particular district and for whom the legislatures and Congress should work. What’s next: only landowners can vote?
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post sees this as the next wave of GOP mainstreaming a fringe idea.
…before long, every Republican is going to decide that they firmly believe, as the most fundamental expression of their commitment to democracy and the vision of the Founding Fathers, that only eligible voters should count when tallying population to determine district lines.
One thing to watch out for as this plays out is the role of the conservative media. If I’m right, very soon you’re going to see Fox News hosts and radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh doing segments on this case, in effect instructing conservatives on what’s at stake and how they should think about the issue. That consistent drumbeat won’t only affect the conservative leaders and rank-and-file, it could even affect the Supreme Court justices, who will hear the arguments being made in the media in support of these plaintiffs. After a while, a legal theory that sounded absurd will begin to seem at the very least to be mainstream. In short order, there will be universal agreement on the right. And it could have a real impact on political power even if the plaintiffs lose.
Isn’t it ironic that in the 200-plus years that this country has been in existence that only until the former minorities — women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and other unwhite unChristians — start to gain both population and political power that the folks who believe in smaller government and more freedom suddenly discover that the rules have to be changed to maintain their rickety perch of power.