How should people be counted for political representation in the US?

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to how the TX legislature drew the state Senate map in 2013. If I’m reading the article correctly, voting districts have to have equal populations. But all residents, including noncitizens, count for that tally. The challengers say they shouldn’t. They’re focused on noncitizens and illegal immigrants, “but the Supreme Court has the option of considering whether other nonvoters should be excluded in calculating voting district sizes, such as minors, felons and even people who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered.”

There are two debatable issues here. One is what the constitution says. But that’s tied up in a long history of voting rights case law that I don’t fully follow. The other issue is what is just and proper, regardless of constitutional matters. I’m not certain how one forms an opinion of that.

We have a long history minimal voter enfranchisement, yet having district lines drawn around population counts (or 0.6 counts for “all other persons,” and excluding Indians.) So it seems to me that the way TX is doing it is fine. But I suspect I’m missing some pieces here.

Yes, I agree that on historical precedence it’s just fine – but, to make the obvious point, so was slavery.

It’s clear that the traditional method of counting is being exploited. I mean that in a value-nutral sense: some people have recognised and are deliberately using this presently assumed legal method.

After that, it becomes a moral/political/ethical/cultural issue. Is it right that your vote is worth more if you can discourage or prevent other people from voting? Does this have a desirable outcome for America or for Americans?

To settle these moral/political/ethical/cultural issues, you are taking the traditional national cultural American method: you are taking it to the courts, and arguing it out in the courts, and trying to find a legal answer to a the question.

Personally, I think the American system is so broken that you ought to be experimenting with changes like representation proportional to the number of votes cast, so I think that if the courts find for change it will be a good thing for Americans and America (Including Texas)

Do you know how other countries count people for population-based districts? I’m not sure what to search for.

New Zealand uses the whole population, “including children and those not eligible to enrol.” This gets split three ways for different groups of electorates, but everybody who lives in New Zealand appears to be counted in one of the three groups used for drawing the boundaries.

This page on the UK Parliament site talks about possible reforms in the future including “distributing constituencies on the basis of population rather than electorate,” so it would appear that they use voters rather than residents.

The problem with districting isn’t who to count, it’s how to draw.

I think something like this which would definitely cause issues to voting is a bad idea. There’s nothing wrong with the way we’re currently doing things. Minors will grow up, people with restrictions may have them removed in time, and unregistered voters may register at any time. Creating a roadblock in front of each of these groups is a typical tactic of people who want to restrict voting rights.

To take the analogy to its logical conclusion, why not restrict voter districts simply by people who voted? If you didn’t vote in the last election or any time in the last decade, someone could say, why should we count you in the district? Or if you don’t vote in the primary, why would we let you vote in the general since you are obviously lazy and don’t care?

Too much can be inferred from voting patterns or non-voters, not all of them realistic but many of them, to someone who has an agenda, sound good.

I’d think that theoretically, the count should be all citizens, regardless of age. It seems somehow wrong to me that if one area has a population of 500,000 with 5% children, and another has 500,000 with 20% children, that the representation should somehow be different.

In the case of illegal immigrants, presumably they have their own government in their own country and can take up things they don’t like with them. Not my business, and not my problem. If they want a say in our government, they need to become citizens and vote.

I am a little hazy on the lawsuit though; is the issue that the Republicans are drawing the Democratic districts such that there are a lot of people in them, but mostly actual Republican voters? That’s the only reason I can see; otherwise padding the Hispanic numbers would tend toward increasing the number of Democratic seats, I’d think.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

In modern terms, that means all persons. Nothing is said about eligibility to vote. Don’t like it, amend it.

That’s a weird way to frame it. You didn’t mention that Republicans are against the idea that voting districts represent all people because it would decrease the population and they want to change it so it gets more Republican votes.

No doubt the defendants are raising that point - the plaintiffs want to count one way at state level, and another way at the federal level.

I’ve got no principled objection to excluding noncitizens from the count that states use to draw districts for state legislatures.

I think it would present practical problems: the Census counts persons in accordance with the Constitution, but it does not ask whether those persons are citizens. (Google ‘2010 Census form’.) So on what would states base their adjustments to the Census counts? If they have some reliable means, then I’d be OK with that. If not, then I wouldn’t be.

OTOH, I would have a deep objection to leaving citizens of any sort out of the count, whether they’re children, prisoners, Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes, or whatever. Those who vote can, with their votes, represent the interests of those who can’t. My wife’s grandmother lacks the capacity to vote anymore due to advanced dementia, but she should be included in the redistricting tallies so that those who vote in her district effectively count for her, and so that her interests carry at least the theoretical potential of equal representation. Same with children.

And same with prisoners: they may be denied the vote as part of their punishment, but they’re still citizens, and their community should have the ability to represent their interests. (Since most prisons these days are out in the boonies, for practical purposes this means a bunch of rural white people get to have the effects of their votes inflated by the count of people imprisoned for crimes in the cities that they have nothing in common with, but it’s tough to fix everything.)

I’ll throw in my usual point…

US citizens residing abroad are taxed, but are not counted in the census for determination of proportional representation.

So for the purposes of the census, some US citizens don’t count. But illegal immigrants do count. At least that is how it was handled for most of the censuses.

The rules have changed back and forth over the years. Sometimes overseas US military and their families were included in the count (1990 was the second time ever) for purposes of representation. But private citizens residing abroad don’t count.

So if citizenship is not a clear marker to guide the courts, my assumption is that residence will carry the day. And that will be all residents, regardless of eligibility to vote.

The case is not challenging how seats in the House of Representatives are apportioned among the states.

Is this not true of all citizen-voting systems in actual use?

But what about a district that consists entirely of adult citizens and a neighboring district that consists of one eligible voter and a prison of disenfranchised felons. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?

How is a district supposed to be drawn up then?

Edit to add:
By that, I mean, if a state’s population is considered 1 million people as apportioned among the states, but this case wins and only 500,000 people are to be represented, there will be extremely unproportional districts. Or can be.

In AUS, it is illegal to discourage or prevent other people from voting.

The USA at present is unusual in that people are seeking to reduce the turn-out from opposing parties. In Optional-Voting systems, it has been usual for parties to try to increase their own turn-out.

Do these people think that the constitution should be amended so that those ineligible to vote should not be counted for the number of state US Congresspeople? If not, then it is a power play, pure and simple. They’re trying to have it both ways.

I guess I didn’t give my opinion of the thread title. I’m not sure it is worth it change the Constitution, although there is a theoretical argument to be made for excluding noncitizens. I wouldn’t exclude those otherwise ineligible to vote such as felons, because I think it should be easy to vote and so we should be working in the other direction.

But it should be consistent on the federal and state basis. No excluding people on one level but counting them on another. That way, those states that have a lot of ineligible voters in districts that are likely to vote for the minority state party don’t get to keep a larger proportion of the US Congress while at the same time maintaining firmer control over their state houses which in turn draw those larger districts.

This case has nothing to do with turnout of eligible voters. It’s all about whether a district represent X number of people eligible to vote or X number of total people living there.