Should it be permissible for government officials to count noncitizens in drawing up voting districts? The answer to this question has taken on added urgency with the illegal immigration crisis and the massive amounts of legal immigrants living in America. Our friends at the Center for Immigration Studies just this week announced that their analysis of census data shows that “the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) hit a record high of 42.1 million in the second quarter of this year – an increase of 1.7 million since the same quarter of 2014.” This means that the noncitizens now comprise “13.3 percent of the nation’s total population – the largest share in 105 years.”
Keep these astonishing and troubling numbers in mind as I report to you our new Supreme Court “friend of court” brief, filed in partnership with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) The suit pushes back against a practice in Texas that undermines the voting rights of legal citizens. Last week (August 7), we filed an amici curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Texas residents challenging the “malapportionment” caused by a Texas election districting law that weakens the voting rights of citizens by including nonvoting noncitizens in state legislative districts.
Under the current Texas districting law, government officials draw districts for the Texas State Senate based upon total population, rather than the number of eligible voters. As a result, voters in districts with large numbers of non-voting-eligible aliens have increased voting and political power compared to voters in districts with higher numbers of legal residents. Voters in Texas’ urban centers have substantially inflated voting power over the fewer number of eligible voters who also reside in those districts. The situation is particularly acute in urban areas like Dallas and Houston, where up to 50 percent of the voting age population are not U.S. citizens.
The Judicial Watch-AEF brief argues that the districting law almost cuts in half the voting power of some Texas citizens:
Texas created districts that are equal in total population but decidedly unequal in citizen population. As a result, the votes of some of Texas’ citizens have, by some measures, almost twice the electoral power of the votes of other Texas citizens …
Texas’ legislators … argue that they are complying with the constitutional, “one person, one vote,” requirement, at the very moment that they are “weighting” the votes of their supporters by placing them in districts with greater numbers of nonvoting noncitizens. The ultimate consequence of this scheme is that legislators are able to enhance their odds of winning reelection without having to engage in the bothersome and time-consuming task of actually persuading voters to vote for them.
A little history is in order.
Back in June 2014, Texas citizens Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger filed a lawsuit arguing that the law violated the “one person, one vote” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. On November 5, 2014, a special panel of three federal court judges dismissed the suit, and on December 4, 2014, Evenwel and Pfenninger filed their notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.
This isn’t our first go on this issue. On March 6, 2015, Judicial Watch and AEF filed an amici brief in support of what turned out to be a successful effort to persuade the Supreme Court to take up the lawsuit.
The Judicial Watch/AEF brief recommends that the Supreme Court “enjoin the use of Texas’ Senate districts because they embody and rely on citizen malapportionment. Further, this Court should direct that Texas’ Senate districts be apportioned on the basis of citizen voting-age population.”
This Texas state legislative districting case has national policy implications because congressional districts are also drawn in a way that gives undue voting weight to voters in districts with large alien and ineligible voting age populations. For example, if only eligible citizen voters could be counted when creating congressional districts, many of the nation’s sanctuary cities with large immigrant noncitizen populations could have their electoral power reduced.
Let’s examine the faulty logic behind the current districting law and how this impacts the rights of legal citizens.
In Texas, some voters are given one-half of a vote simply if they live in areas that don’t have many illegal aliens and other non-citizen residents. We argue that the Supreme Court should apply the law to ensure record numbers of non-citizens in the United States aren’t used to deprive citizens of their right to have their votes treated equally under law. This Texas redistricting case exposed the dirty little secret that the illegal immigration crisis is being used by politicians to gain power at the expense of the voting rights of U.S. citizens.
Our efforts here do not occur in a vacuum. As our long-time readers know, JW has been working tenaciously over the years to improve ballot integrity and to preserve the voting rights of legal citizens. Attorneys with our Election Integrity Project, for instance, filed successful lawsuits and other legal actions against state government officials who have failed to maintain clean voter registration lists. When ineligible names, which often include noncitizens, appear on voter rolls, it increases the likelihood of fraud. Noncitizens are officially counted in a way that takes away the voting rights of citizens. This political power, stolen from American citizens, is one reason many politicians don’t want to enforce laws against illegal immigration and want to increase the already record number of legal and illegal immigrants.
The Supreme Court should rule on the Texas issue by June of next year.
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