Mike Kueber's Blog

August 4, 2010

One person, one vote – part II

When is the last time you had an original idea?  As I have been often reminded by a friend, it is highly unlikely that any of us ever think of something that hasn’t been thought before.  I received another example of that today. 

As you may recall, on July 24, 2010 I posted a blog entry titled, “One Man, One Vote in San Antonio.”  In the post, I described how the City Council districts in San Antonio had widely varying numbers of voters because (a) some districts had minimal population growth and (b) those same districts had relatively large numbers of non-voters (illegal immigrants).  I ended the post by suggesting that Congress should “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.”

Today, while reading a website relating to UT-Austin’s new affirmative-action lawsuit, I stumbled across some information about a pending federal lawsuit that is addressing this very “one person, one vote” issue – Lepak v. City of Irving.  If you want an example of America turning into a country of litigation, Lepak is perfect.

In 2007, the City of Irving was sued by an Hispanic who claimed that because the city council was elected in at-large districts instead of single-member districts, there were no Hispanic councilpersons even though the city was over 40% Hispanic.  Benavidez v. City of Irving.  According to existing federal law, single-member districts must be created if a district can be reasonably drawn so that a minority group constitutes a majority in that district.  Thornburg v. Gingles.   Benavidez won his lawsuit against Irving, so the city designed six single-member districts, with one of them having a majority of Hispanic residents.  The court rejected the city’s argument that, although a majority of the residents in the district were Hispanic, they were not a majority of the voters.

Shortly after the Benavidez case was resolved, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling that conflicted with the Benavidez result.  Reyes v. City of Farmers Branch.

In Reyes, the Fifth Circuit declared that for purposes of requiring single-member districts, the minority must be able to reasonably draw a proposed district where the minority comprises a majority of “voting-age citizens.”    

So what should the city of Irving do?  Don’t worry, because within two months of the Reyes decision, Irving was sued by Anglos in the new minority district.  Lepak v. City of Irving.  But Lepak did not sue to eliminate the single-member districts.  Instead, he claimed that, because 60% of Hispanic residents in Irving are not citizens (according to census data), it violates “one person, one vote” equal protection under the 14th Amendment to draw districts based on population instead of “voting-age citizens.” 

Apparently, the issue of re-districting by counting all residents vs. counting only voting-age citizens has never been addressed by the 5th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.  A decision clarifying this issue would be hugely significant because most areas with large numbers of illegal immigrants vote for Democrats.  I wonder why the Republican Party isn’t working this issue.


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

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

  2. […] I was reviewing my previous postings on this subject, I discovered that I had blogged about Lepak almost three years ago in August 2010.  At that time, the case was just starting to […]

    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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