Monday, December 07, 2015

It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is

Often, I wonder why venture into reading something that I have no business reading about.  It happened, yet again, today.  And this time it is about a lawsuit that will be settled by the US Supreme Court.  I am no constitutional lawyer, neither am I neck deep in political theory or philosophy, but I was drawn to reports on the lawsuit like a drug addict is ... oh wait, I have no idea what a drug addict feels; I better stay away from bullshitting about that then! ;)

The case is scheduled to be heard tomorrow, Tuesday the eighth of December.  Mother Jones, which is no friend of the GOP, puts it this way:
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will examine the bedrock principle of "one person, one vote" in a major case that could yield the Republican Party a critical advantage in future elections.
So, what's going on, you ask?
Texas residents Sue Evenwel and Ed Pfenninger want the court to create a uniform national standard for drawing legislative districts based on the total number of eligible voters in them, as opposed to the total number of people, which is the standard that Texas and many other states use now.
Mother Jones lets us know what it thinks about the plaintiffs:
The plaintiffs behind this high-stakes legal challenge are an unusual pair. One is a Texas tea party activist who has promoted a conspiratorial film suggesting President Barack Obama's real father was Frank Marshall Davis, a supposed propagandist for the Communist Party. The other is a security guard and religious fundamentalist who believes the Earth doesn't revolve around the sun and that unicorns were real.
Wait, what?

Can somebody closer to the center, from the other side, explain this, please?
on December 8th the Supreme Court will consider a fundamental question it has elided in previous rulings: When states draw electoral districts, who should they consider to be the population that is being represented? Is it the eligible voters who count—a category that excludes non-citizens, children and felons, among others? Or is the total population—including people who are not eligible to vote—the right metric?
The parties’ briefs in Evenwel v Abbott give the impression that the question may be best addressed in a university seminar room. The dispute in those pages has the air of a dry academic exercise, with few glimpses into the political issues involved. But to pick up the many amicus (friend-of-the-court) briefs on both sides is to see the centrality of the case to the real-world jockeying of America’s political parties. The stakes of Evenwel are potentially huge, and it appears that Democrats have the most to lose.
Wait, what?  When even the Economist notes that "Democrats have the most to lose," isn't it time for people like me to run to the jungle and stay holed up in a cabin?  Any other take?
The change would produce a political earthquake. Eligible voters as a group are older (no children under 18, to begin with), wealthier, and more Republican—and, even more important in Texas, whiter and more Anglo—than the population at large. Many people in the Southwest—both legal residents and undocumented immigrants—are not citizens. Under the proposed Evenwel rule, only those eligible to vote count.
Crap, that does not help!  Back to the Economist then:
 Nine unelected judges hold in their hands a fundamental question of American democracy that could alter the political terrain for decades to come.
Oh my freaking lord!  When even a junkie like me did not know about this case until now, ... Gimme some hope.  Somebody. Anything to grasp, please.
Victory for the plaintiffs seems unlikely, however. The Court is hearing this case not so much out of choice but because, as a direct appeal from a three-judge court, it can’t just refuse. Whether it heard arguments or not, its decision would set a precedent. And the plaintiffs are on shaky ground. They are in essence asking the Court to open itself up to a decade or more of hell adjudicating its new rule. Consider this soothing phrase from their brief: “This appeal need not resolve every implementation issue.” Indeed. A rule basing districts on “eligible voters” would be a nightmare to administer, with district courts around the country required to find information about eligible voters—information that’s not available anywhere.
As an amicus brief for a group of former directors of the Census explains, “there is no actual count of the number of voting age citizens.” The Census counts the number of people in the country. The only systematic information about citizen population is a sample, like a voter poll in other words, taken by the Census. And that sample is too small to produce a reliable estimate of citizens in a given district, the former officials warn: “Adequate data to support Appellants’ positions simply do not exist.”
Oh well.  The umpire is not really an umpire at all

1 comment:

Anne in Salem said...

I can't pretend to know the proper answer. I understand the thesis on both sides. The Constitution requires elections for the House to count all people, not just voters, which seems a pretty fair basis for a decision.

Why couldn't we add a question to the census about eligible to vote? Data would be available.

Thank heaven the Supreme Court is not elected!!

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