Saturday, February 12, 2011

Texas Redistricting Lawsuit: Count Citizens Only

by Ross Ramsey | Texas Tribune
February 11, 2011

Redistricting doesn't start until next week, but the first lawsuit has already been filed.

Attorney Michael Hull of Austin, representing three North Texas voters, sued the state and a bunch of others, alleging that counting undocumented immigrants in political districts has an unfair and illegal effect on voters in districts with smaller numbers of non-citizens.

The logic goes this way: If two districts have the same populations and one has more non-citizens than the other, it takes fewer voters in that district to swing an election. Fewer citizens means fewer voters means a smaller number makes a majority. Each vote is, compared to the district with more citizens, worth more.

That's interesting, but it's probably not the main point of the lawsuit. This appears to be (insert an asterisk for uncertainty here) the first lawsuit filed on redistricting, and if the courts don't burp it back up, it means the redistricting cases in Texas could go through a bunch of judges in and around Sherman. Hull asked for a three-judge panel — that's normal in redistricting. This is also pro forma: The suit pulls in redistricting for Congress, the Legislature and the State Board of Education. A copy of the lawsuit is attached.

Lawmakers haven't seriously started drawing lines. The Census Bureau won't drop the required population numbers on which those lines will be based until next week. But if that suit sticks, it'll could be the platform for the legal fights sure to follow the Legislature's map-making efforts.

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