Evenwel v. Abbott: Kids Still Count

Child Rights
Children on the Ballot
Racial Equity

BMP0001556One person, one vote. Today the Supreme Court heard Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that could fundamentally change the way that principle works in America. The plaintiffs seek to force a shift in the way state legislative districts are determined, arguing that districts must be required to have an equal number of voters rather than an equal number of people. Legal scholars and journalists have already dissected the far-reaching political and racial implications of the case, but many have overlooked the dramatic impact a decision in favor of the plaintiffs will have on children. The Children’s Defense Fund and other organizations concerned with the impact this decision could have on children have filed an amicus brief that details why SCOTUS must rule in favor of the defendants.

Under the current interpretation of the law, most states determine legislative districts based upon the total population in the region. In theory, this measure ensures that legislators represent the best interests of children, despite the fact that they cannot vote. A decision in favor of Evenwel would alter the redistricting process by only considering eligible voters at the time of each Census. Legislators would no longer be forced to consider the needs of children, as the population under the age of 18 would no longer factor into their district makeup.

Children close to the voting age will also face unequal representation with a decision in favor of the plaintiffs. Due to the restrictions on collecting accurate Census data on the voting population, children aging into the voting population could wait up to 9 years to be counted as a part of their district’s voting block.

In today’s political climate, children already struggle to have their voices heard. Without the ability to vote or donate to campaigns, kids rarely receive their fair share of political attention or spending. Just this last year, federal spending on children fell below 8 percent, and there a few signs that point to a reversal in this negative trend. The plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott claim that they are seeking more equitable representation; however, it is clear that a move to voter-based districting would leave kids behind in more ways than one.


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