What does representation mean in our democracy?

WASHINGTON: Today, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Evenwel vs Abbott. This Texas redistricting case challenges the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote.’ For decades this principle has ensured that everyone in America, regardless of who they are or where they live, is entitled to equal representation. The Evenwel decision could force states to leave out large segments of their populations when drawing legislative districts, simply because they are not voters, including children under 18 and legal permanent residents.

Alaska has joined 20 other states in filing a brief against Evenwel’s suit, stating “In Alaska, rural legislative districts often have substantially higher percentages of children than most urban districts—e.g., the population in two rural house districts is approximately 37% children compared with less than 20% in several urban districts—because the Native Alaskan communities living in rural districts often have large families and experience an exodus of voting-age adults moving to cities for educational and employment opportunities.”

According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, using American Survey Data, Alaska has about 15,000 undocumented immigrants. This accounts for approximately 1.8 percent of the state’s total population. However, legal permanent residents and over 185,000 young people under 18 could be disenfranchised. Population counts and subsequent redistricting occurs every ten years.


Kay Brown, Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party, issued the following statement following oral argument:

“Representation is the distinguishing characteristic of modern democracy. Every American should have representation, whether they choose to vote or not. Total population is the only measure that is consistent with the Constitution’s promise of equal representation.

“This is another coordinated attempt by Conservatives to rig the democratic process in an attempt to win more elections. Two years ago, the Voting Rights Act was effectively gutted. Now, the same organization that led that legal fight is at it again.

“If Sue Evenwel has her way, this case could pose a serious threat to Alaska and the long standing principle of equal representation. Rural and minority communities stand to lose the most representation. Already enormous rural districts would have to be redrawn and expanded to include as much as 18% more citizens of voting age.  

“Make no mistake, this is an egregious and fundamental challenge to our democracy. It is troubling that Conservatives seem determined to erode the progress of the Civil Rights movement in a cynical attempt to win more elections.”