NYU's Sarah Cowan, an expert in demography, is available for comment on Evenwel v. Abbott, which the Supreme Court ruled on today.

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New York University’s Sarah Cowan, an expert in demography, is available for comment on Evenwel v. Abbott, which the Supreme Court ruled on today.

At issue had been whether voting districts should have the same number of people or the same number of voters. A Texas district court previously ruled that the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the 14th Amendment allows states to use total population, rather than voter population, in apportioning state legislative districts. The plaintiffs, Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, contended that apportionment should be based on eligible voters.

The high court has never determined if voting districts should have the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters. Today, it ruled that states may, but are not required to, count all residents—regardless of voting eligibility—in drawing election districts.

Cowan’s research was cited in an amicus brief filed by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Evenwel and Pfenninger, who are represented by the Project on Fair Representation. In her 2015 study, “Periodic Discordance Between Vote Equality and Representational Equality in the United States,” which appeared in the journal Sociological Science, Cowan examined voting and non-voting populations from 1860 through 2010.

In the work, she observed that the U.S. Supreme Court has historically “assumed that maintaining representational equality leads to vote equality,” but her study found that “this formula does not always hold. By default, not intent, representational equality is privileged, and vote inequality can occur with consequences for the geographic distribution of legislative seats, the elections to those seats, and the subsequent distribution of public resources.”

She concluded that the “legal and demographic reality is that the Court will have to choose between vote and representational equalities, with its attendant consequences for American political life.”

Cowan can address how the following matters pertain to Evenwel v. Abbott:
• How changing the basis of apportionment would affect the geographic distribution of U.S. House seats
• How and why apportioning according to resident counts results in unequal votes now vs. other times in U.S. history

Reporters interested in speaking with Cowan should contact James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808 or james.devitt@nyu.edu.
 

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James Devitt
James Devitt
(212) 998-6808