Judicial Watch, Allied Educational Foundation File Amici Brief with U.S. Supreme Court Criticizing Texas’ Redistricting Rules that Dilute the Value of Citizens’ Votes
MARCH 31, 2015
Texas’ apportionment effectively gives some of its citizens approximately 1.8 votes while others have only 1 vote.”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) in the filing of an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Sue Evenwel, a Texas resident who filed a lawsuit to overturn a Texas “malapportionment” law (Sue Evenwel, et al. v. Greg Abbott, et al. (No 14-940)).
The law, passed in 2013, drew up districts for the Texas state senate based on total population rather than the number of eligible voters, giving voters in districts with large numbers of non-voting-eligible aliens disproportionate power compared to voters in districts with higher numbers of legal residents. This policy has resulted in some Texas voters effectively gaining more voting power than Texans in different districts, with the Texas redistricting giving “some of its citizens approximately 1.8 votes while [leaving] others [with] only 1 vote.” The friend of court brief was filed on March 6, 2015.
According to the amici curiae brief filed by Judicial Watch and AEF in support of Evenwel:
Texas is devaluing the votes of certain of its citizens by improperly including noncitizen nonvoters when determining the “equal population” of legislative districts. Under federal law and the laws of all 50 states, only citizens may vote in federal elections. Texas’ scheme to give weight to nonvoting noncitizens along with lawful voters is contrary to the principles embodied in citizen voting laws.
In June 2013, the Texas legislature passed “Plan S172,” apportioning senatorial voting districts according to the total number of citizens, including illegal aliens, who live in a district, rather than according to the total number of voters or potential voters. As a result, the high numbers of non-voting-eligible immigrants – whether legal or illegal – in Texas’ urban centers substantially inflated the voting power of the lesser number of eligible voters who also reside in those districts. The situation is particularly acute in urban areas like Dallas and Houston, where up to 50 percent of voting age Hispanics are not currently U.S. citizens.
In June 2014, Texas citizens Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, both of whom live in areas “overpopulated” with eligible voters as compared to other Texas state senate districts, brought suit claiming that the law violated the “one person, one vote” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On November 5, 2014, a three-judge federal district court dismissed the suit, and on December 4, 2014, Evenwel and Pfenninger filed their notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Judicial Watch /AEF amici curiae brief argues that the Supreme Court should review the lower court decision upholding the law to prevent “state legislators from deliberately disenfranchising their own citizens by…strategic placement of noncitizen populations in certain districts in order to dilute the voting power of citizen populations …:”
The creation of districts with massively unequal populations of age-eligible or registered voters (albeit with the same total populations) allows legislators to “weight” the votes of their supporters by placing them in districts with fewer voting citizens. Legislators thereby acquire the undemocratic ability to increase their odds of winning elections without having actually to appeal to voters. Indeed, legislators gain the ability to choose themselves, at least to some degree, and they acquire this power at the voters’ expense.
The brief highlights the harm done to the constitutional rights of citizens whose votes are devalued compared to the votes of citizens in districts with large numbers of non-voting aliens, when voting districts are drawn by total population rather than by eligible citizen voters. Citing the extraordinary fact that the non-citizen population in the United States has doubled since 1990, the JW/AEF brief requests the Supreme Court finally settle the issue of whether the U.S. Constitution requires that non-citizens be counted when setting up voting districts:
Out of a total 2012 population of 311 million… roughly 7 percent of the modern U.S. population lacks citizenship – or about 1 in 14 people … Accordingly, the opportunity for legislators to resort to the tactical use of non-citizen populations to dilute the voting power of citizens is greater than ever.
“The illegal immigration crisis is hurting the voting rights of citizens in Texas,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “In Texas, voters are punished if they live in areas that don’t have many illegal aliens and other non-citizen residents. The Supreme Court should take steps to ensure that the record numbers of non-citizens in the United States aren’t used to deprive citizens of their right to have their votes treated equally under law.”
The Allied Educational Foundation, Judicial Watch’s partner in the amici brief, is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving quality of life through education. In furtherance of that goal, the Foundation has engaged in a number of projects which include, but are not limited to, educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. AEF has frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption, and to promote a return to ethics and morality in the nation’s public life.