The Supreme Court on Tuesday wrestled with fundamental questions about American democracy and the right to vote. And the justices did not seem to have many answers.
The biggest question before the Court was about the meaning of “one person, one vote”—the doctrine that’s supposed to guide states as they draw their legislative districts.
Some conservatives say “one person, one vote” has been misunderstood and misapplied for decades. And if they win their case in court, Republicans’ already sizeable advantage in state politics would likely grow even stronger. Such a ruling would dilute Democratic-leaning districts, shifting more power to conservative-leaning suburbs.
The words “one person, one vote” don’t appear in the Constitution, but have emerged as a sort of catch-all for the Constitution’s various guarantees of equal representation. For decades, the states have taken the words “one person” rather literally: They’ve drawn legislative districts to contain roughly equal numbers of people.
Some conservatives, though, say the policy of “one person, one vote” really ought to ensure that each person’s actual vote counts the same as everyone else’s — they want districts drawn to contain similar numbers of eligible voters, not total people. That would be a huge change, and would almost certainly benefit Republicans, by diluting the power of dense urban areas that tend to lean Democratic.