Voting Rights

The United States Supreme Court picked up a controversial Texas case last week regarding state legislative districting that would greatly affect “one person, one vote” methodology and youth and Hispanic voting dilution. Plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott want states to use only the number of eligible voters in determining district lines rather than general population. They contend that urban voters in a nearby district have more influence than they do even though they have over 200,000 less eligible voters than their mostly rural district. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, which has previously challenged the federal Voting Rights Act and affirmative action in college admissions.

A Federal District Court in Austin last fall dismissed the case initially noting that total population has generally been used as the metric of comparison, consistent with the 1964 Supreme Court decision of Reynolds v. Sims which established this “one person, one vote” concept. However, they did note that the Supreme Court has never required any particular standard and it is this grey area in which plaintiffs hope the high court will see in their favor.

A ruling in such direction would be a serious blow to minority voting rights. Every resident under 18 or who isn’t a citizen would get their count tossed out, two categories which encompass many Texas Hispanics. Over 1.7 million noncitizens would not be counted, disproportionally affecting Senate districts of minority senators. These usually urban minority districts would have to greatly expand to meet the “one person, one vote” requirements, thus hugely diluting their voting power. The principle of representation is a bedrock of our nation and Evenwel v. Abbott could create grave consequences to this fundamental right.

Benny Agosto, Jr. is a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, Texas. For over 65 years, Abraham Watkins has successfully represented injured people and families who fall victim to catastrophes. Our attorneys have the knowledge, experience and resources necessary to obtain just compensation their clients. For more information, please contact the office of Benny Agosto, Jr. at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, by letter at 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713) 222-7211.