A case soon will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that may have far-reaching implications for how state legislatures should be redistricted. The political consequences of this case, Evenwel, et al v. Abbott, et al, however, reach even further. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs, the very fabric of political representation will change, voting rights of Latinos and African Americans will be diminished, and the axis of partisan political power will be irreparably transformed in Texas. The Evenwel plaintiffs argue that the way Texas draws its state senatorial districts violates the “equal protection clause” of the 14th Amendment because it contravenes the “one person, one vote” standard established in the landmark Baker v. Carr decision.
The petition states that Article 3, Section 28, of the Texas Constitution orders senatorial districts to be drawn after each decennial census conducted by the U.S. census. The plaintiffs then claim that each district has an uneven number of voters — that there can be more than a 200,000 difference in voters from one district to the next. This large voter differential is the basis for the claim that the “one person, one vote” principle is violated.
One suspects that an essential reason plaintiffs chose to attack state senatorial districts is because the provision on what population should be the basis for the drawing of districts was eliminated as unconstitutional in 2001. But it was never replaced. So, Article 3, Section 25 simply says that the state will be divided into contiguous senatorial districts, but doesn’t say what will constitute the population basis for each district.