WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday for a high-profile redistricting case that will force the court to decide what the democratic principle of "one person, one vote" actually means.
The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, could shift political power around the country from cities to rural areas by upending how state legislative districts are drawn. But its plaintiffs, Sue Evenwel and Ed Pfenninger, have some questionable views.
Evenwel is a tea party activist infatuated with Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Pfenninger is a security guard who has posted to YouTube hundreds of videos of himself expounding on his fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
Currently, state legislative districts are drawn every 10 years on the base of total population -- meaning people who aren’t eligible to vote, like children, noncitizen immigrants, undocumented immigrants, prisoners and some people with felony convictions are counted when populations are divided for redistricting purposes. Evenwel and Pfenninger are asking the Supreme Court to prohibit states from drawing their districts in this manner, and instead use a basis like eligible or registered voters to delineate their district boundaries. Civil rights groups say a victory for the plaintiffs would shift political power from urban, younger, racially diverse areas -- where residents tend to vote for Democrats -- to rural, older, whiter, more conservative areas.
In court documents, Evenwel and Pfenninger argue that their votes are unconstitutionally diluted because they live in districts with a relatively high ratio of eligible voters compared to more urban districts that have the same total population, but fewer eligible voters.
Edward Blum, a non-lawyer activist who has had resounding success in getting the Supreme Court to hear cases concerned with race and representation, recruited the plaintiffs to file the case. The nonprofit Blum founded, the Project on Fair Representation, succeeded in gutting the Voting Rights Act in 2013 in Shelby County v. Holder and came close to abolishing affirmative action at public universities in Fisher v. University of Texas. (The Supreme Court is hearing a second round in the affirmative action case on Wednesday.)
Quite a bit is known about the relatively media-friendly Blum, but his plaintiffs are more mysterious. Blum found Pfenninger because he was "an acquaintance," while he recruited Evenwel by "calling around," Talking Points Memo reported in June. Blum and Evenwel did not respond to requests for comment about the case.
Mother Jones on Friday published details about some Pfenninger's many YouTube videos.
"He's described the Catholic Church as 'the Mother of Harlots,'" writes Stephanie Mencimer. "He's also said that Jews are 'enemies of the cross,' and that God created Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust because he 'wanted the Jews back into the Land.'"
Pfenninger has also said he believes the sun revolves around the Earth and that the unicorn "was a real creature."
Evenwel, for her part, chairs the Republican Party in Titus County, Texas, and is a member of the party's executive committee in the state. She has claimed that Texas' current state legislative redistricting process means giving "equal representation to a block of undocumented people who are not eligible or registered to vote."
Evenwel shared a post on Facebook in 2013 about a conspiracy theory that the Affordable Care Act requires all U.S. citizens to have a microchip implanted, writing above the post, "Now this could be a problem."
On her Facebook page, Evenwel has criticized the so-called Gang of Eight senators who pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, calling them "a bunch of thugs … willing to sell our Constitution away to the highest bidder!" She has liked 20 different Facebook pages associated with Cruz, who she has called "a hero" and "the true unapologetic champion of our values." Her Twitter feed is mostly dedicated to his presidential bid.
Evenwel changed her profile picture in November to a photo of the Supreme Court building.
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