DALLAS (CN) – A federal judge in Texas threw out a closely followed lawsuit Thursday accusing Dallas County of drawing voter district lines to dilute the influence of white voters.
U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, wrote the plaintiffs “failed to prove” the lack of a second county commissioner district capable of electing a white Republican, their choice, is a violation of their equal protection rights.
“In short, this is because the Anglo citizen voting age population of Dallas County contains a significant number of persons (roughly 23 percent) who vote Democrat,” the 39-page opinion states. “Accordingly, because plaintiffs cannot prevail on their claims under [the Voting Rights Act] and the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, defendants are entitled to judgment dismissing this action with prejudice.”
Of the five members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court, Mike Cantrell of District 2 is the only white male Republican. The Commissioners Court is the head administrative body of the county similar to a county commission, not a judicial court.
Lead plaintiff Anne Harding, represented by Dallas-based Equal Voting Rights, sued the county in 2015, claiming the commissioners court uses “naked racial politics, intentionally using its power to minimize a dissenting race’s political sway.”
The plaintiffs say candidates preferred by white voters have “almost never” won a countywide general election since 2004 due to the non-white majority voting as a bloc for their candidates with districts drawn to allegedly “cram” as many racial minorities as possible into one district.
They also cite comments by controversial Democratic County Commissioner John Wiley Price in 2011 that the body rejected an “impulse” to “fragment” Republican areas by drawing four Democratic districts.
Fitzwater wrote that, if anything, the evidence shows the plaintiffs’ voting power has been strengthened by the concentration of whites in Cantrell’s district, where a Republican can be reliably elected.
“Here, based on evidence presented at trial, the court finds that plaintiffs have not shown, given the political makeup of the Dallas County Anglo [citizen voting age population] and the geographical distribution of Dallas County Anglo Republicans, that they have the potential to elect a Republican in a second commissioner district,” the judge wrote. “In other words, because plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence at trial that the Commissioners Court could have created two performing districts for Anglo Republicans, ‘the logical result is that [defendants] did not dilute the [Anglo Republican] vote.’”
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Dan Morenoff of Dallas, said he was disappointed with the ruling but was happy the judge agreed whites can sue for voter right protection. He told The Dallas Morning News he did not know if they would appeal.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the lone white male Democrat on the commission, said he was glad the judge agreed that the rights of every voter were protected in the district maps.