Press release via email:
Voting Rights Lawsuit Filed Against State of Texas:
State Senate Districts Unconstitutional
(Alexandria, VA) Today, the Project on Fair Representation (POFR) announces the filing of a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ state senate districts. The complaint can be found at www.projectonfairrepresentation.org
The plaintiffs in this case are registered voters in Texas Senate Districts #1 and #4 who assert that Plan S172—the Texas Senate redistricting plan enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on June 26, 2013— is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The plaintiffs seek an order enjoining Texas from conducting further state Senate elections under Plan S172 and ask the court to require the Texas Legislature to reapportion state senatorial voting districts in conformity with the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Defendants are Rick Perry, in his official capacity as Governor of Texas, and Nandita Berry, in her official capacity as Texas Secretary of State.
The lawsuit alleges that Texas’s senate districts are grossly malapportioned by various measures of eligible voters, thus violating the principle of “one person, one vote” even though all of the districts are roughly equal in total population. The plaintiffs reside in two of the most malapportioned districts in the state.
The complaint notes that by some measures the gap between eligible voters in the two Senate Districts and those in other districts approaches 50%. The effect of this severe overpopulation of voters in Senate Districts #1 and #4 is that the Plaintiffs’ votes carry far less weight than the votes of other citizens in districts that are under-populated with electors.
For example, the votes of electors in Senate District 3, a district over-populated with electors, have only sixty-one percent (61%) of the weight of the votes of electors in Senate District 27, a district under-populated with electors. The gross disparities created by Plan S172 violate the fundamental requirement of voter equality under the 14th Amendment.
As the Supreme Court of the United States held in Reynolds v. Sims, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits “weighting the votes of citizens differently, by any method or means, merely because of where they happen to reside.” By adopting Plan S172, the State of Texas has run afoul of what the Supreme Court in Reynolds refers to as “the basic principle of representative government,” specifically, that “the weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend upon where he lives.” Texas has done so despite the fact that equalization of voter populations can be achieved compatibly with equalization of total population in properly apportioned senatorial districts.
Bert W. Rein, William S. Consovoy and Brendan J. Morrissey of Wiley Rein, LLP in Washington, D.C. are counsel for the Plaintiffs. They successfully represented Shelby Co. Alabama in Shelby Co. Ala v. Holder and Abigail Fisher in Fisher v. Univ. of Texas last term at the U.S. Supreme Court. Also representing the Plaintiffs is Meredith B. Parenti of Parenti Law PLLC in Houston, Texas.
Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, said, “One-person, one-vote is the cornerstone of our nation’s most enduring election principles. That is why we are asking the court to compel the state to remedy the glaring eligible voter gaps.”
Blum added, “Equalizing eligible voters does not have to come at the expense of equalizing for total population. Both can and should be achieved.”
POFR is a legal defense foundation based in Alexandria, Virginia that has provide pro bono legal representation to individuals and jurisdictions in a number of important U.S. Supreme Court cases, including in NW Austin MUD v. Holder, Shelby Co. Ala. v. Holder and Abigail Fisher v. Univ. of Texas-Austin.