By JoAnne Pow!ers, April 11, 2016:
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare unanimous decision last week in the case of Evenwel v. Abbott, rejecting the claim of Texas conservative voters that when redistricting legislative districts only eligible voters should be counted rather than the total population. Matt Rothschild is Executive Director of government watchdog organization The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and former editor of The Progressive magazine:
[Matt Rothschild]: “Some conservatives wanted to take away, essentially, the representation that immigrant non-citizens would have, that children would have, that prisoners and former prisoners who are denied the right to vote would have when legislative districts were being re-drawn, and had the Supreme Court ruled the other way it would have given a lot more power to white rural districts than exist at the moment. This is a setback for the conservative cause, and a unanimous setback, too, which is kind of astonishing. Eight-nothing. Scalia, having passed away, he would have been the ninth justice, but even Roberts and Alito and Clarence Thomas were on board with the ultimate decision. No one wanted to go with the conservative side that had brought that case.”
Rothschild says the groups that would have been most disenfranchised if the court had ruled differently would have been Latino immigrants who are not yet citizens and prisoners or former prisoners out in the community. Citing racism in the criminal justice system, he notes that people of color would be disproportionately affected.
[Matt Rothschild]: “Well, it’s interesting that you mention that, because I was just looking at the history of disenfranchisement in the United States and it’s quite a long and sordid history, including the way they were apportioning districts, counting slaves as three-fifths of a person. There’ve always been these efforts by reactionaries to jimmy the way you count people, and give some people more rights than other people.”
After the court gutted much of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, Southern states moved quickly to pass provisions that would have the effect of disenfranchising voters of color. Rothschild says these limits on voting and the suit rejected by the court last Monday are part of a larger pattern:
[Matt Rothschild]: “What we’ve been seeing in this country for decades now is a concerted aggressive effort by right-wing and racist forces to try to limit the voice and the vote and the power of African-Americans and Latinos, and they’re gonna try every possible way they can to limit that voice and that vote and to set up a high hurdles race to the voting booth for people to have to clear before they can cast a vote. We saw that in Wisconsin with the Voter ID Law that was causing so much trouble on April 5th, and we see it in this effort by Texas conservatives to try to reconfigure how you draw legislative districts and who’s head you can count and who’s head you can’t count. I imagine they wake up in the middle of the night and rub their hands together and say ‘I’ve got another idea as to how we can limit suffrage in America,’ and that should offend every American who believes in a democracy.”