Representation and Apportionment in Metropolitan America

The case of Lepak v. City of Irving(TX) will be considered for a hearing before the Supreme Court in its next term. This case, brought by the Project on Fair Representation, a conservative legal foundation responsible for Shelby County v. Holder (challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) and Fisher v. University of Texas (challenging race-aware admissions measures in public universities), would seek to change the standard of apportionment from one based on district population to one based on the numbers of voters in a district.

It’s not hard to grasp the significance, as Adam Liptak writes in the NYT: 

Were the challengers in the new case to succeed, the practical consequences would be enormous, Joseph R. Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin wrote last year in The Yale Law Journal.

It would, he said, “shift power markedly at every level, away from cities and neighborhoods with many immigrants and many children and toward the older, whiter, more exclusively native-born areas in which a higher proportion of the total population consists of eligible voters.”

In Irving, Texas, switching to a standard based on the number of voters would combine neighborhoods where Latino immigrants live with areas dominated by older white Anglos. In metro areas like Atlanta, it would further shift power in state legislatures toward suburbs. This case thus presents a recurrent problem: determining the relevant universe of people for apportionment is inherently political. The Project on Fair Representation would like to make this a discussion about formal principles rather than one about real-world power.


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