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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Texas Senate Districts Challenged

AUSTIN (CN) - Texas Senate districts are unfairly drawn, based on population rather than on number of electors, resulting in votes not being weighted equally, two voters claim in Federal Court.

Sue Evenwell and Edward Pfenninger sued Gov. Rick Perry and Secretary of State Nandita Berry on Monday.

The voters claim the senatorial voting districts signed into law in June 2013 under Plan S172 are "malapportioned" and violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

The voters claim the Legislature sought to equalize total population in drawing the districts and "gave no consideration" to how many electors or potential electors are in each district.

"In districts where the number of electors is relatively low, the number of voters required to elect a Senate member is fewer than the number of voters required to elect a Senate member in districts where the number of electors is relatively high," the 15-page complaint states.

"Thus, the vote of an elector residing in a district where the number of electors is relatively high, like the districts in which plaintiffs reside, is given significantly less weight than the votes of those in districts where the number of electors is relatively low ... For example, the votes of electors in Senate District 3, a district overpopulated with electors, have only 61 percent of the weight of the votes of electors in Senate District 27, a district underpopulated with electors."

S172 violates the "one person, one vote" principle of the Fourteenth Amendment, a principle the U.S. Supreme Court has referred to as "the basic principle of representative government," the complaint states.

The voters acknowledge that the state "might have a constitutional interest" in creating districts with equal populations.

"But the Supreme Court's case law is clear that the Equal Protection Clause also protects the rights of electors, and that redistricting responsibility does not stop with total population equalization," the complaint states. "States therefore must ensure that their apportionments protect the rights of electors, and they cannot apportion legislative districts based solely on total population where, as here, doing so would result in grossly unequal weighting of individual electoral power."

The Project on Fair Representation - an Alexandria, Va.-based conservative legal foundation - is backing the lawsuit. POFR director Edward Blum said that "equalizing eligible voters does not have to come at the expense of equalizing for total population."

"Both can and should be achieved," Blum said in a statement Monday.

The voters seek a declaration and injunction for violations of the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment. They are represented by Meredith Parenti in Houston and Bert Rein with Wiley Rein in Washington, D.C.

Follow @davejourno
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