Mike Kueber's Blog

July 24, 2010

One man, one vote in San Antonio?

Filed under: Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:19 am
Tags: , , , ,

The concept of “one man, one vote” is a fundamental democratic principle in the United States, but when you look at recent City Council election returns in San Antonio, you might wonder whether the concept is being ignored. 

There are ten City Council districts in San Antonio.  Attached below are the election returns in the two most recent elections, plus the number of registered voters in each district:

      2009          2007                Registered

      votes          votes                voters            

  1. 6,670         5,534               56,337            
  2. 4,442         3,471               57,193
  3. 3,611         2,493               57,692
  4. 3,912         3,896               56,831
  5. 5,153         3,164               50,826
  6. 6,272         5,130               75,871
  7. 10,251       9,242               75,855
  8. 10,487       11,627             86,557
  9. 11,972       8,629               94,447
  10. 8,514         9,140               79,818

Obviously, the voters in Districts 7-10 have diluted votes because 40,000 voters elect four councilpersons whereas the voters in District 1-6 have steroid votes because 25,000 voters elect six councilpersons.  There are two factors that lead to this defective electoral process:

Ten-year interval between adjustments

The council districts are drawn every ten years, following the decennial census, to comply with the City Code, which requires the districts “shall be as nearly equal in population as practicable.” Because the growth in each district varies dramatically, the population in each district will vary significantly  by the end of the ten-year interval.  The last drawing of district boundaries occurred in 2002, following the 2000 census, and the population variations in that census were astounding: 

2000 Census Total Population
District   Total Population % of Total
1   97,161 9%
2   94,737 8%
3   97,630 9%
4   119,713 10%
5   85,600 7%
6   112,066 10%
7   110,888 10%
8   164,391 14%
9   137,201 12%
10   123,190 11%

Districts 7-9 had approximately the same number of people as did Districts 1-6, and District 8 had almost twice as many people as District 5.  Incredibly, the 2002 drawing of district boundaries did not completely correct the inequity.  Whereas each re-drawn district should have contained 115,000 people, re-drawn District 6-8 actually contained 120,000 people (+4% deviation) and Districts 2-5 contained 111,000 people (-4% deviation).  I am assuming that 4% is an acceptable deviation for most courts, but it doesn’t make sense in San Antonio for the plus-deviations to be assigned to the high-growth districts and minus-deviations to be assigned to the low- or negative-growth areas.  That only exacerbates the inequity.  When new district boundaries are drawn in 2012, based on the 2010 census, the minus-deviations should be assigned to the high-growth districts.    

Apportioning is based on number of people, not number of voters

If each vote is to have the same weight, apportioning should be based on the number of voters in a district, but historically it has been based on population.  This practice is becoming more problematic, not only because voter registration is dropping significantly in various parts of the country, but also because there are becoming huge numbers of illegal inhabitants in certain parts of the country. 

A sound basis for apportioning based on population can be found in the U.S. Constitution.  Article I provides – “Representatives … shall be apportioned among the several States … according to their respective Numbers….”  The Constitution goes on to require that Congress count “the whole number of persons in each State… in such manner as they by Law shall direct.”  Furthermore, key Supreme Court decisions usually refer to “population,” “people,” or “inhabitants,” even though courts have indicated in dicta the need for equity among voters: 

  • “And, if a State should provide that the votes of citizens in one part of the State should be given two times, or five times, or 10 times the weight of votes of citizens in another part of the State, it could hardly be contended that the right to vote of those residing in the disfavored areas had not been effectively diluted….  With respect to the allocation of legislative representation, all voters, as citizens of a State, stand in the same relation regardless of where they live….”  Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533(1964).
  • “Whenever a state or local government decides to select persons by popular election to perform governmental functions, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that each qualified voter must be given an equal opportunity to participate in that election, and when members of an elected body are chosen from separate districts, each district must be established on a basis that will insure, as far as is practicable, that equal numbers of voters can vote for proportionally equal numbers of officials.”  Hadley v. Junior College Dist. of Metropolitan Kansas City, 397 U.S. 50 (1970).

In the short term, it makes sense for Congress to instruct the decennial census to distinguish between legal and illegal residents.  The Constitution appears to give the Congress such latitude, and there is no good reason for granting representation to people who are in this country illegally.

In the long term, I think it would be a good idea to amend the Constitution to apportion districts based on prior voting numbers.  This not only would most closely resemble the ideal of one-man, one vote, but would also encourage people to register and vote.


  1. Mike,

    You write interesting commentary.

    Comment by BB — July 24, 2010 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  2. BB, Danke. MK

    Comment by Mike Kueber — July 24, 2010 @ 6:30 pm | Reply

  3. […] recall, on July 24, 2010 I posted a blog entry titled, “One Man, One Vote in San Antonio.”  https://mkueber001.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/one-man-one-vote-in-san-antonio/.  In the post, I described how the City Council districts in San Antonio had widely varying […]

    Pingback by One person, one vote – part II « Mike Kueber's Blog — August 4, 2010 @ 4:34 am | Reply

  4. […] may recall that I have previously blogged about this major flaw in apportioning districts – i.e., it fails to distinguish between citizens and non-citizens.   […]

    Pingback by Redistricting in Texas – the first lawsuit « Mike Kueber's Blog — February 12, 2011 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  5. […] months ago, I wrote in my blog about a redistricting problem in San Antonio – i.e., voters who lived on the booming, […]

    Pingback by Redistricting the city-council districts in San Antonio « Mike Kueber's Blog — April 6, 2011 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

  6. […] few days before the first Lepak posting, I blogged about the huge difference in registered-voter totals in the San Antonio districts.  The totals […]

    Pingback by More on the one-person, one-vote principle | Mike Kueber's Blog — March 21, 2013 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

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