[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Tuesday in two cases. In Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission [transcript, PDF] the court heard arguments [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] on whether the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) [official website] violated the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” when it redrew congressional district lines to overpopulate some areas and under populate, therefore giving votes in certain districts different value. The case arose [Oyez Project summary] after the plaintiffs claimed that the AIRC deliberately redrew district lines so that there would be too many voters in 16 Republican districts while putting too few in 11 Democratic districts. The plaintiffs argue that this means that the votes of the residents in the overpopulated districts lose value while those in the underpopulated districts gain value. The lower court ruled for the AIRC, stating that although this was a possible consequence, the commission was primarily trying to get federal approval for the new district lines.
The court also heard arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott [transcript, PDF] on whether [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that redistricting take into account the number of voters in the state or the total population. The case arose [Oyez Project summary] after the 2010 census when the Texas legislature created a redistricting plan. A federal district court eventually ruled that this plan violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 [DOJ summary] and issued their own plan for the 2012 elections, which was eventually adopted and signed into law. Plaintiffs claim that the new plan does not adhere to the “one person, one vote” rule found in the Fourteenth Amendment, as it apportioned the districts based on the total population of the state and not the registered voter population. The lower court held that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim under the Equal Protection Clause.