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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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White Voters Sue Dallas County for Bias

DALLAS (CN) - White people claim Dallas County drew illegal district lines for its Commissioners Court to discriminate against white voters, who no longer constitute a majority there.

Five white voters sued the county in Federal Court on Thursday, claiming the five-member Dallas County Commissioners Court is playing "naked racial politics, intentionally using its power to minimize a dissenting race's political sway."

The Commissioners Court is an administrative body similar to a county commission, not a judicial court. It is comprised of four commissioners from single-member districts and an at-large county judge who serves as presiding officer. All members serve four-year terms. It now has a 3-2 white majority.

Lead plaintiff Anne Harding, represented by the Dallas-based Equal Voting Rights Institute, claims 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.

"The body does so through its redistricting authority, cramming as much of that racial minority as possible into a single district and splitting the remainder up as an insignificant fraction of the electorate in the surrounding districts," the 9-page complaint states.

"It undertakes this move to intentionally deny the racial minority a chance to fairly participate in the electoral process, while claiming that the minority has no legal right to protection and arguing that higher law compels the racist act."

Harding et al. claim the new majority has been in place since 2006 and that county leaders illegally remapped the Dallas district after the 2010 Census.

"In 2006, the Anglo minority was able to produce narrow countywide majorities for its preferred candidates in some top-of-the-ticket, statewide races (including those electing a United States Senator, Texas's Lieutenant Governor, Texas's Comptroller, and Texas's Attorney General), but failed to do so in the races electing the Governor or lower statewide officers (like the Land Commissioner and the Agriculture Commissioner), or in any race for county government office," the complaint states.

"More recently, only two candidates preferred by Dallas's Anglos have narrowly won the county in any election contested between the major parties over the last four (4) cycles. The consistent pattern shows that in gubernatorial election years (2006, 2010, and 2014), countywide races see an ethnically defined majority reject candidates preferred by Dallas's Anglo minority, often by narrow margins; in Presidential election years (2008 and 2012), the same ethnically defined majority does the same, with larger margins."

The voters claim Dallas has seen "consistent, overt and subtle racial" appeals of local elections held after 2004, with the Commissioners Court "unresponsive" to the white minority.

The complaint notes comments by County Commissioner John Wiley Price at a June 7, 2011 hearing on the county's current voting district map. He said the Commissioners Court had considered but rejected an "impulse" to "fragment the Republican areas of the county to draw all four commissioner districts as Democratic districts."

"He omitted, except by implication, that instead they had decided to intentionally crack and pack Dallas's Anglo minority through the discriminating map to provide Anglos a less obviously offensive, but still-less-than-equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect their Commissioners of choice," the complaint states.

"Commissioner Price explained that the discriminating map had been crafted to 'acknowledge the dramatic growth involving, you know, of Hispanic and African American population[s] and our obligation under the U.S. Voting Rights Act to provide [those] voters with an effective opportunity to elect their preferred candidate of choice.' He made no reference to the opportunities the discriminating map afforded the dissenting Anglo racial minority, though, nor the impact of the Voting Rights Act on the Commissioners Court's ability to fragment its vote. He went on to describe CCD 4 as having been designed to elect a 'candidate of choice of Hispanic voters' and CCD 3 as having been drawn to 'continue to provide African American voters an effective opportunity to elect' a commissioner of their choice, despite the fact that both Hispanic voters and African American voters were represented by members of the Commissioners Court majority crafting the map."

The Commissioners Court passed a map "designed to punish its racial enemies, while patting itself on the back for its adherence to the Voting Rights Act," the voters claim.

They say that white voters are now packed into District 2, which contains 43 percent of Dallas' white folks.

County officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

The Equal Voting Rights Institute said in a statement that the lawsuit challenges the same treatment voting rights activists have complained of "for years that statewide minorities receive from Texas."

Plaintiffs' attorney and EVRI executive director Dan Morenoff said the defendants "carve up" white voters' vote by allowing "almost half the population the change to compete for no more than a fifth of the seats."

"That's just wrong," Morenoff said Thursday.

"The Voting Rights Act prevents that kind of disenfranchisement of an out-of-favor race, regardless of what race it is. When Congress took the historic step in 1965 to equally protect all Americans from racial discrimination, they meant every American and I look forward to seeing the courts enforce that original understanding."

The plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments, invalidation of the map and the creation of a new one, either by the court or the Commissioners Court.

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