Are Illegal Immigrants Diluting The Votes Of American Citizens?

Ian Smith Immigration Reform Law Institute
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Is the House of Representatives the least representative body in the advanced world? Is the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” truly applicable to our current system? Is excessive immigration diluting our democracy? These are some of the core questions emerging after the Supreme Court agreed to hear Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that could fundamentally alter the congressional redistricting process with the effect that the distribution of electoral power between red and blue states coming out more fair.

Under our current system, congressional districts are drawn around a roughly identical number of residents, not actual eligible voters. As a consequence, in districts with a large amount of legal and illegal aliens, a smaller amount of eligible voters will be needed to direct district policy. As the Supreme Court has characterized it, if voters in one district can “vote for one representative and the voters in another district half the size also elect one representative,” citizens in the former become “shortchanged.” The two plaintiffs in Evenwel, both from districts in rural Texas, apparently feel the same way. Although the case involves state senate districts, according to the Brennan Center, a win for the plaintiffs “would change the way that redistricting is done virtually everywhere in the country.”

After the Supreme Court agreed to take up Evenwel, legal pundits rightly noted that the courts have barely addressed what the constitutional principle of “one person, one vote” actually means. The last major case was 1964’s Reynolds v. Sims, which gave us our current system of maintaining a roughly identical number of “people” among districts. The reason for the courts’ evasion likely is because it simply wasn’t an issue then. Back then, the foreign-born population of the country was around 5 percent. It’s now 13 percent at 42 million, the highest in history — of this figure, the Census Bureau estimates around 40 percent will become citizens — In other words, now more than ever, legal and illegal aliens are diluting the influence of citizens.

Following the 1920 census, when our population was 106 million, Congress capped the number of House seats at the current figure of 435. Our population’s increased almost three-fold since and mostly due to immigration. Today, average representation in the House is around 1 representative per 700,000. By contrast, Canada and Britain’s lower chambers, both called the House of Commons, have around 1 representative per 96,000 and 89,000, respectively. This ratio is similar to that found in the German Bundestag or the French Assembly.

Japan’s representative-to-person ratio, like America’s, is relatively large at 245,000. A key difference with Japan, however, is that its population is 98 percent Japanese citizens. The country has made a conscious choice to keep immigration low and not yield to “civil rights” fetishists or corporate lobbyists hoping to import as many people as possible. As a result, the eligible voter-portion of Japan’s population is far higher than America’s and the difference between “person” and “eligible voter” is pretty much only a question of age.

A win for the plaintiffs in Evenwel will also have consequences for the power of states in the Electoral College. These effects, however, like the effects on congressional districts, would likely be concentrated. As former Cornell economics professor Vernon Briggs has pointed out, of the 100,000 legal and illegal immigrants entering the country every month, one half settle in just five cities: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco-Oakland. This intake has apparently had a major effect. On illegal immigration, CBS has reported that it indeed plays “a significant role in the redistribution of seats.” After the 1990 census, they note, 12 seats were redistributed and in 2000, 16 seats were redistributed with 9 going to California alone.

The current system of counting bodies over eligible voters, therefore, seems to support Democrats in blue states, making those states both bluer and more influential on national policy. This is likely a major explanation for their across-the-board support for open-borders.

A victory for the Evenwel plaintiffs then may cause Democrats’ immigration enthusiasm to wane as importing bodies could no longer fatten their districts and Electoral College positions. It’ll actually shrink. Take California which has the highest number of non-citizens in the country. Estimates from the American Community Survey show California’s eligible voter population standing at 23 million. Adjusting district distribution around this figure, instead of its general population of 33 million, would mean the state would stand to lose around 16 of its 53 congressional seats.

Stripping the electoral power factor from the immigration calculus would seem to do much to curb the push for an expansive immigration policy among Democrats in California and everywhere else. Godspeed to the plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott.