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Supreme Court Finally to Look Into Rotten Boroughs
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From Britain in 1831

I wrote back in 2003:

UCLA sociologist Roger Waldinger observed, “Heavy immigrant densities make the Mexican-American districts into rotten boroughs, where only a small proportion of the adult population votes, a situation that does little to encourage electoral competition or mobilization.” (The term “rotten borough” comes from 18th and 19th-Century British politics, a time when some Parliamentary districts notoriously held but a literal handful of voters.)

The rotten borough effect is also visible in California’s congressional elections. For example, in the luxurious Hollywood Hills, in congressional District 30 where 8 percent of the population is Hispanic, veteran Beverly Hills Democrat Henry Waxman won re-election last November in a race in which all the candidates combined drew 184,000 votes. In distinct contrast, in nearby congressional District 31, a 70-percent Hispanic area that includes East L.A., Democrat Xavier Becerra gained another term in a contest in which 67,000 voters showed up.

This interpretation of the law that creates Hispanic rotten boroughs is not without its critics. In the majority opinion of the 1998 7th Circuit federal case “Barnett vs. City of Chicago,” Judge Richard A. Posner ruled, “We think that citizen voting-age population is the basis for determining equality of voting power that best comports with the policy of the (Voting Rights) statute. … The dignity and very concept of citizenship are diluted if non-citizens are allowed to vote either directly or by the conferral of additional voting power on citizens believed to have a community of interest with the non-citizens.”

That decision applies only to three Midwestern states, however. The Supreme Court has yet to rule definitively on the issue.

From today’s New York Times:

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’

By ADAM LIPTAK MAY 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of “one person one vote.”

Obviously, we don’t give one vote to one person — or at least not yet we don’t let anybody who sneaks into the country vote. But we typically count them for drawing up state legislator and House districts, which seems like an oversight from the Warren Court’s era of low immigration.

The court’s ruling, expected in 2016, could be immensely consequential. Should the court agree with the two Texas voters who brought the case, its ruling would shift political power from cities to rural areas, a move that would benefit Republicans.

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

It doesn’t always work that way. A lot of Republican-leaning districts in inland California used to benefit from having a lot of ineligible Hispanics counted in drawing up the district: e.g., Sonny Bono’s widow in Palm Springs. But Mary Bono lost to a Latino in 2012. Thus, it’s not a winning strategy for Republicans in the long term.

Also, there are several potential intermediate levels between counting everybody, whether here legally or illegally, and counting only eligible voters. For example, as Judge Posner suggests, you could count all voting age American citizens (including felons who have lost their voting rights since they are still our fellow American citizens). Or you could count legal immigrants as well.

The bottom line is that the current system of counting illegal immigrants is absurd, while other alternatives are least arguable.

 
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  1. Here’sthe problem as seen from New York:

    http://m.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Something-rotten-in-the-state-of-New-York-5601719.php

    But Republicans benefit upstate due to prisons.

  2. This would be a major win for the GOP as California alone has, perhaps, 4 or 5 extra seats in the House based on illegal immigrant population alone. If the court was to rule than districts be based on US citizen population alone its likely another 4 or 5 seats would go. Texas and Florida might lose a couple but, as noted, they would likely be Democrats seats.

    IANAL and we know the courts are not immune to politics but the precedent for this was those old rural districts that had lost eligible voters but still had a Congressional district and the Democrats, rightfully, demanded that Congressional districts be ‘reapportioned’ every ten years to reflect population shifts. How they can turn around and say that urban districts with a dearth of eligible voters should retain a seat at the expense of suburban and rural districts would take some doing.

    • Replies: @Anonononymous
    Finger in a dike.
  3. Perhaps, in a compromise, the illegals could be counted as 3/5s…

  4. The rotten burro on the Supreme Court should recuse herself from this case.

  5. Jones’s First Law:
    Anyone who makes a significant contribution to any field of endeavor, and stays in that field long enough, becomes an obstruction to its progress — in direct proportion to the importance of their original contribution.

    We’re lazy and expensive. The immigrants are energetic and cheap.

    • Replies: @Mr. Anon
    "SKINET says:

    Jones’s First Law:
    Anyone who makes a significant contribution to any field of endeavor, and stays in that field long enough, becomes an obstruction to its progress — in direct proportion to the importance of their original contribution."

    Gosh, did you find that online somewhere? How clever. Quoting those stupid Murphy's Law knockoffs is not a substitute for thinking. What you wrote is not a law, nor is it even often true.

    "We’re lazy and expensive. The immigrants are energetic and cheap."

    You may be lazy and expensive. Get lost, then.
  6. Well, we could count illegals as 3/5ths.

    This is a joke.

    (Although with the treatment a tiny number of illegals get from their employers…)

  7. There would be a downside to any system that counted only registered voters, or those who bothered to vote: it would encourage states and cities to maximize turnout, which would mean more dumb people voting. Consider the difference in results in mid-terms, where Republicans tend to better than presidential election years, where heavy publicity and GOTV brings the dumbs out in force.

  8. If SCOTUS finds for the plaintiff, this will mean that people under 18 can’t be counted. This will marginally hurt populations that are more under 18 than normal. I.e. blacks. A ruling for the plaintiff will marginally hurt black political power in legislative bodies that depend on redistricting.

    • Replies: @anonymous-antimarxist
    No, the SCOTUS could decide that only Citizens and Legal residents(or just Citizens) including minors can be counted towards Congressional apportionment,
  9. My favorite was the 1988 court decision saying the LA County Supervisors violated the voting rights of Latinos by not drawing a special district for all the illegal aliens that they should have known would be showing up in the 1980s.

  10. Adam Liptak writes in the NYT: “The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. ”
    Why *would* the court resolve this question, what has already been resolved in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution:
    “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.”
    This refers to “free Persons”, regardless of age, nationality, or eligibility to vote.
    But Amendment XIV, Section 2, modifies this, referring to the number of male citizens in a State who are age twenty-one.

  11. Political cartoons were much more sophisticated and detailed back in the 1830’s.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Cartoons were too complicated back then. They should have had more cartoons with one guy on a tiny desert island with one palm tree saying one line.
  12. @rustbeltreader
    Jones's First Law:
    Anyone who makes a significant contribution to any field of endeavor, and stays in that field long enough, becomes an obstruction to its progress -- in direct proportion to the importance of their original contribution.

    We're lazy and expensive. The immigrants are energetic and cheap.

    “SKINET says:

    Jones’s First Law:
    Anyone who makes a significant contribution to any field of endeavor, and stays in that field long enough, becomes an obstruction to its progress — in direct proportion to the importance of their original contribution.”

    Gosh, did you find that online somewhere? How clever. Quoting those stupid Murphy’s Law knockoffs is not a substitute for thinking. What you wrote is not a law, nor is it even often true.

    “We’re lazy and expensive. The immigrants are energetic and cheap.”

    You may be lazy and expensive. Get lost, then.

  13. I always thought that the ‘electoral roll’ was the document upon which voter allocation was based upon.
    Also, I always thought that listing on the electoral roll is compulsory, but dependent on a number of qualifications including age of majority and citizenship.

  14. Don’t bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I’m sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    Flight fron White.

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches witten by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks. Heck most are 80+.

    • Replies: @EriK
    If you mean "by most" as one. Then you are correct.
    http://www.thegreenpapers.com/Hx/SupremeCourt.html
    , @Kevin O'Keeffe
    "Don’t bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals."

    I'll give you 1,000 to 1 odds on that, actually.
    , @keypusher
    Don’t bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I’m sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    I will bet you $1 million that the Court will not give the vote to illegals in this case. How about it?

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches written by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks.

    I can see you've never heard Stephen Breyer speak.

    Heck most are 80+.

    Exactly one is over 80, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Scalia and Kennedy were born in 1936, so they're getting close.

    If you have no clue what you're talking about, shut up.
  15. @Canadian Observer
    Political cartoons were much more sophisticated and detailed back in the 1830's.

    Cartoons were too complicated back then. They should have had more cartoons with one guy on a tiny desert island with one palm tree saying one line.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    The greatest cartoonist of the Georgian period was Gillray.
    Gillray had a rather unhealthy obsession with scatological themes. The sheer earthiness of Gillray's imagery makes a stark contrast to the Victorian stuffiness and prudishness that followed.
    It is often said that the Georgian period was one of cheerful bawdiness and that Victorian prudery was the backlashness - even the cartoonery bears this out.
  16. @unit472
    This would be a major win for the GOP as California alone has, perhaps, 4 or 5 extra seats in the House based on illegal immigrant population alone. If the court was to rule than districts be based on US citizen population alone its likely another 4 or 5 seats would go. Texas and Florida might lose a couple but, as noted, they would likely be Democrats seats.

    IANAL and we know the courts are not immune to politics but the precedent for this was those old rural districts that had lost eligible voters but still had a Congressional district and the Democrats, rightfully, demanded that Congressional districts be 'reapportioned' every ten years to reflect population shifts. How they can turn around and say that urban districts with a dearth of eligible voters should retain a seat at the expense of suburban and rural districts would take some doing.

    Finger in a dike.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer
    Cartoons were too complicated back then. They should have had more cartoons with one guy on a tiny desert island with one palm tree saying one line.

    The greatest cartoonist of the Georgian period was Gillray.
    Gillray had a rather unhealthy obsession with scatological themes. The sheer earthiness of Gillray’s imagery makes a stark contrast to the Victorian stuffiness and prudishness that followed.
    It is often said that the Georgian period was one of cheerful bawdiness and that Victorian prudery was the backlashness – even the cartoonery bears this out.

  18. @countenance
    If SCOTUS finds for the plaintiff, this will mean that people under 18 can't be counted. This will marginally hurt populations that are more under 18 than normal. I.e. blacks. A ruling for the plaintiff will marginally hurt black political power in legislative bodies that depend on redistricting.

    No, the SCOTUS could decide that only Citizens and Legal residents(or just Citizens) including minors can be counted towards Congressional apportionment,

  19. Steve,

    You could easily crank out at least a “Mad Men” number of blog posts on what just the effect the SCOTUS considering “Rotten Boroughs” would have on the Black Congressional Caucus alone. Considering that many long term Black Congresscritters now represent some of the most foul of Rotten Boroughs overrun with illegal aliens, long term Hispanic non-citizens and wtih notoriously low numbers of elligible voters and minimal electorial turnout.

    Notable examples being those disttricts of Shelia Jackson Lee(ironically Barbara Jordan’s district of 20 years ago), Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters. Respective turnouts in 2012, 192, 113 and 200 thousand votes. All Black CongressCritters who long ago threw their fellow Blacks constituents under the bus to push the “People of Color”, Open Borders bandwagon. Now all three are terrified of being replaced by Hispanic challengers unless they out do themselves pushing Open Borders.

    Not to mention just the problems Chicago Democrats have with what to do about Luis Gutiérrez ‘s perposterious IL 4th congressional distric(the Ear Muff district) overflowing with population but with laughably few eligible voters and Chicago’s other three dwindling black and increasingly Hispanic congressional districts(Bobby Rush’s 1st, Danny Davis’s 7th, formerly Jesse Jackson’s 2nd), Attempting to resolve that long simmiering conflict in 2008 set in motion the crude and obvious political horse trading fiasco that the ended up sending the IL Governor Rod Blagojevich and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr to jail.

    Just another area of potential conflict among the Democrats coalition of the fringes.

  20. @Whiskey
    Don't bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I'm sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    Flight fron White.

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches witten by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks. Heck most are 80+.

    If you mean “by most” as one. Then you are correct.
    http://www.thegreenpapers.com/Hx/SupremeCourt.html

  21. It’s inhumane to not let future migrants vote, just because they haven’t crossed some arbitrary boundary yet.

    Votes for the world!

  22. This is dreadful. I had no idea that there was this much hokey-pokey in the sizing of districts. I thought gerrymandering was bad, but counting illegal immigrants is just wrong. Hell, I wouldn’t even count dependents with no voting rights. Hell, might as well just count people who paid above minimum wage level taxes in the last two years. That would really shake things up. Might be easier than simply restricting voting rights.

    • Replies: @Jim Don Bob
    Even better, let's go back to having The Franchise open only to to adult property owning males. The participation of women and tax eaters has made things worse.
  23. I had never thought about this before in reference to citizens under 18. It seems like if anyone besides voting age citizens should be counted, their children would be first on the list.

    Prisoners who have lost their voting rights still seems strange to me. I would het this is soon overturned. If there is a constitutional right for gay marriage, there certainly must be a constitutional right to never lose your voting rights.

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
    "If there is a constitutional right for gay marriage, there certainly must be a constitutional right to never lose your voting rights."

    That may backfire against the Cathedral, however, in that by my estimation, White men with a previous felony conviction, if allowed to form their own polity, would elect a Patrick Buchanan/Jared Taylor national ticket, by acclamation. And most of the ones over the age of 35 (provided they didn't do something crazy that has them still in the joint), probably would be voters. Obviously, such a measure could lead to increased Black voter turn-out, but as a matter of practical reality, Black felons already equal people who would have never voted in their entire lives anyway. How many Black felons are even still alive, past the age of 35? In some ghetto districts, I have it on good authority that a 30-year old man, is considered "old."
  24. I was beginning to think I was the only person on Earth aware of this “rotten borough” issue in (particularly) Southern California. I had no idea the Federal courts had this on their radar at all.

  25. @Romanian
    This is dreadful. I had no idea that there was this much hokey-pokey in the sizing of districts. I thought gerrymandering was bad, but counting illegal immigrants is just wrong. Hell, I wouldn't even count dependents with no voting rights. Hell, might as well just count people who paid above minimum wage level taxes in the last two years. That would really shake things up. Might be easier than simply restricting voting rights.

    Even better, let’s go back to having The Franchise open only to to adult property owning males. The participation of women and tax eaters has made things worse.

  26. @Whiskey
    Don't bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I'm sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    Flight fron White.

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches witten by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks. Heck most are 80+.

    “Don’t bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals.”

    I’ll give you 1,000 to 1 odds on that, actually.

  27. @Whiskey
    Don't bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I'm sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    Flight fron White.

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches witten by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks. Heck most are 80+.

    Don’t bet against the court simply granting voting rights for illegals. I’m sure their clerks who actually write their opinions are for it.

    I will bet you $1 million that the Court will not give the vote to illegals in this case. How about it?

    A Supreme Court justice gives speeches written by others, looks sober, and poses. But everything else is done by their clerks.

    I can see you’ve never heard Stephen Breyer speak.

    Heck most are 80+.

    Exactly one is over 80, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Scalia and Kennedy were born in 1936, so they’re getting close.

    If you have no clue what you’re talking about, shut up.

  28. Ed says:

    There is a small amount of confusion here. The constitutional language Adam refers to in comment # 10 refers to reapportionment, affecting how many representatives each state had. This is fixed pretty clearly by the Constitution (though interestingly Congress refused to reapportion in the 1920s, in violation of black letter law), and based as Adam points out on the number of free people living in each state, whether citizens, legal residents, or non-legal residents, excluding Indians/ native Americans. You could make a fancy argument that illegal immigrants are effectively slaves of their employers, not free, and should actually be counted on a 3/5 basis as the Constitution provides, but no one important wants to open that particular can of worms.

    The case before the Supreme Court is about redistricting. This is the number of people per district within this state, and the Constitution is silent on how this is done. Before the 1960s, states could and did make no attempt to have equal population in their congressional district. The current practice, of equal population per district, regardless of citizenship or residency status, with a very low deviation between districts, is governed party by federal legislation and mostly by judicial decisions. Since law here is mostly judge-made, the Supreme Court has pretty wide scope to change it.

    My own opinion is that the equal population should be based on both, the raw number of people and on the number of people legally allowed to vote, whether they do so or not (not necessarily registered, though registration numbers could be used as a convenient proxy). An given district would have to have x number of people AND x number of potential legal voters. This would be easier if the allowed population deviation between districts was greater than it is now, but then it probably should be on other grounds (the deviation is unusually small in the US compared to other countries and this is a big contributor to the weird shapes of the US legislative district). It would mean some strange looking districts combining portions of LA and inland exurban Southern California territory, but I think that is worth it to get rid of the “rotton borough” problem.

  29. @Hipster
    I had never thought about this before in reference to citizens under 18. It seems like if anyone besides voting age citizens should be counted, their children would be first on the list.

    Prisoners who have lost their voting rights still seems strange to me. I would het this is soon overturned. If there is a constitutional right for gay marriage, there certainly must be a constitutional right to never lose your voting rights.

    “If there is a constitutional right for gay marriage, there certainly must be a constitutional right to never lose your voting rights.”

    That may backfire against the Cathedral, however, in that by my estimation, White men with a previous felony conviction, if allowed to form their own polity, would elect a Patrick Buchanan/Jared Taylor national ticket, by acclamation. And most of the ones over the age of 35 (provided they didn’t do something crazy that has them still in the joint), probably would be voters. Obviously, such a measure could lead to increased Black voter turn-out, but as a matter of practical reality, Black felons already equal people who would have never voted in their entire lives anyway. How many Black felons are even still alive, past the age of 35? In some ghetto districts, I have it on good authority that a 30-year old man, is considered “old.”

  30. Conservative judicial activism is the flavor of the day with the Roberts Court deciding to hear this case. From the NYT Article–“It is highly ironic that conservatives, who usually support respect for precedents and states’ rights, are bringing a case that if successful will not only upset decades-old case law but also restrict the kind of representation states may choose.”

    • Replies: @TWS
    Roberts conservative? Hardly. NYT would call anything short of our continuing slide into fabian socialism 'conservative'.
  31. @Corvinus
    Conservative judicial activism is the flavor of the day with the Roberts Court deciding to hear this case. From the NYT Article--“It is highly ironic that conservatives, who usually support respect for precedents and states’ rights, are bringing a case that if successful will not only upset decades-old case law but also restrict the kind of representation states may choose.”

    Roberts conservative? Hardly. NYT would call anything short of our continuing slide into fabian socialism ‘conservative’.

  32. I said Roberts Court, NOT Roberts himself, who skews conservative based on his overall record as Chief Justice.

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