The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday wisely reaffirmed the legality of the long-held practice of affording everyone who permanently lives in the United States -- whether eligible to vote or not -- representation in America's political systems.

A court ruling -- as two plaintiffs representing a Texas conservative group had requested -- that only eligible voters should have representation, would have created chaos on the political landscape because nearly every subdivision creates representative districts based on total population and not on registered voters.

Perhaps the biggest news here is that the court's decision was unanimous. Yes, unanimous. The court currently has a strong 4-4 split among those holding a generally liberal bent and those with generally conservative views.

Of course, the court only has eight members voting now because the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia has not been filled. President Barack Obama has nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat, but Republicans in the Senate have not acted on that nomination, insisting the appointment should be made by the next president instead of by Obama.

Many feared this case might be one of those caught up in a 4-4 deadlock, but it wasn't.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion for six justices and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas each wrote concurring opinions.

"As history, precedent, and practice demonstrate, it is plainly permissible for jurisdictions to measure equalization by the total population of state and local legislative districts," she wrote.


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This opinion reaffirms the legality of the current practice, but it does not settle the question of whether the system advocated by the plaintiffs would be legal should a political subdivision choose to use it.

Ginsberg made that clear.

"We need not and do not resolve," she wrote, whether " ... states may draw districts to equalize voter-eligible population rather than total population."

The implication being that the court might divide on that question so it is best leave it until such time as a political jurisdiction decides to employ that redistricting method.

This issue became a flash point when the conservative group Project on Fair Representation challenged the way Texas conducted its redistricting for state legislative seats.

As is usually the case, the heart of the issue is political power. Millions in the population aren't eligible to vote -- children, legal and undocumented immigrants, prisoners and those who are disenfranchised. Except for prisoners, those people are largely concentrated in urban areas, where Democrats usually dominate. A decision the other way would have helped shift power toward more Republican-friendly rural areas.

But the court was wise to keep a traditional system that has served the republic well for a long time and guarantees everyone representation.