WASHINGTON – A separate redistricting case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 8 has Hispanic congressmen worried it could lead to giving the majority Anglo population a new tool to maintain political control despite changing demographics.
The case challenges the practice in Texas to use census population to divide up the state into different legislative districts. That system, the same as used in Arizona, is based on a head count done every decade by the U.S. Census.
But challengers contend that’s not fair, as population does not equate with ability to vote. So they are asking the justices to allow states to use some other metric, like citizenship or even voter registration.
Congressman Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., speaking as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that would lead to unfair results.
“The concept in the United States is that you have always been able to get representation whether or not you are allowed to vote, whether or not you are registered to vote, whether or not you are in the process of becoming a voter,” he said at a press conference Dec. 8 in front of the court building.
“You still have a right to representation, you still have a right to petition your government,” Gallego said. “By giving power to one person more so than another by dint of registration, you are disempowering, disenfranchising many other people.”
That is the converse of what challengers in the Texas case are arguing.
In their legal arguments to the court, they say the current system, in essence, allows adoption of a map for the state Senate “even if 30 of the districts each contained one eligible voter and the 31st district contained every other eligible voter in the state.” That, they say, violates the constitutional requirement of one person/one vote.
Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas said he foresees danger if the justices let each state determine who should be counted.
“If the plaintiffs win their case, that would be a strong symbol and signal from the highest court in the land that millions of Americans don’t count in our system of government,” Castro said. And he contends there’s a political motive behind all that.
“It’s an ultraconservative attempt for people to choose their own electorate,” he said.
“It amounts to political engineering and social engineering,” Castro continued. He said it allows those in power to define who to count in ways they think it will help them win, whether eligible voters or even actual voters, meaning those who show up at the polls.
Gallego sees racial motives behind this as he does behind other changes in voting laws.
“They are all a series of attacks to assure that the rising American electorate does not take hold of power,” he said.
“The conservative factions of our political voice is not attractive to the rising American electorate,” Gallego continued. “So if they cannot win their vote they are going to try to diminish the vote.”