What Happens Next at the Supreme Court?

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia may deadlock several critical Texas cases now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Red would argue that the most important is Evenwel v. Abbott  a case in which the justices heard arguments last year.   The case involves a diabolical plan by ultra right-wing conservatives to take control of state elections through the Court rather than through free and fair elections.  In a twist of the “One Man One Vote” doctrine, the plaintiffs have argued that their voting power is limited by the way Texas draws its state legislative districts.  The claim is that districts for state representatives and senators should be based on the number of eligible voters in each district and not on population.

This would be in direct contrast to Congressional districts which are required to be based on population by the Constitution. The Evenwel case specifically challenges Texas Senate districts.  A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would allow states to draw districts using eligible voters and exclude children, legal and undocumented aliens, persons who have had voting privileges suspended and others.  This would result in a massive shift of representation away from urban areas to more conservative rural and small town districts.

A decision in that case is pending, but if the justices don’t want to rule on a case in which review has already been granted, they can announce that the cert petition was “improvidently granted,” which means lower court ruling holds.  Another alternative, would be to hold over the case until a new justice is appointed at which time they can rehear oral arguments.  No one knows the fate of this case yet, but it is probably the most important case that the Court will decide this year.

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