Mike Kueber's Blog

March 21, 2013

More on the one-person, one-vote principle

I recently blogged about the one-person, one-vote principle as applied to redistricting in San Antonio.  In the post, I pointed out that there are two different legal standards for creating equally populated districts (approximately equal vs. as equal as practicable) and that the City of San Antonio in its 2012 redistricting probably chose the wrong standard.

A few days ago the one-person, one-vote principle came up again in another context in a NY Times article.  The article reports on a pending Supreme Court decision – Lepak v. City of Irving – in which the plaintiff is arguing that districts should be divided on the basis of the number of eligible voters in the district, not the number of residents.  Although the six council districts in Irving have nearly identical numbers of residents, one of the districts (the only minority district of the six) has only half as many voters as the others because it has a large number of children and illegal immigrants, neither of whom are eligible to vote.    

As 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 work its way through the federal courts.  Now it appears that we will finally get an answer this summer.   

The Lepak decision is obviously important to San Antonio.  Although various reports indicate that Dallas and Houston are much bigger magnets for illegal immigrants, San Antonio’s Southside districts certainly contain a significant number of these people who are not eligible to vote.  Unfortunately, the supporting documents for San Antonio’s 2012 redistricting fail to address the number of illegal immigrants in the respective districts, but they do reveal the voting-age population in each district.  Those numbers show that the lopsided difference between the population-rich Northside districts and the population-poor Southside districts is even starker when narrowing the focus to only voting-age population:

  • The City Council’s 2012 redistricting, which was based on the 2010 census, created ten council districts based on total number of residents, ranging from a low of 126,228 (-4.86 deviation) in District 5 to a high of 139,227 (+4.94 deviation) in District 9, for a total deviation of 9.8% from the “ideal” population of 132k.  The total deviation is much greater when based on the districts’ voting-age population, ranging from a low of 85,284 (-12.16% deviation) in District 4 to a high of 109,612 (+12.90% deviation) in District 8.  Thus, the combined resident-deviation range of 9.8% barely satisfies the maximum legally permissible total of 10%, but the combined voter-deviation range of 25.06% dramatically exceeds it.  

A few days before the first Lepak posting, I blogged about the huge difference in registered-voter totals in the San Antonio districts.  The totals ranged from a low of 50,826 registered voters in District 5 to a high of 94,447 in District 9.

No matter how you slice it – by total population or voting-age population or documented voting-age population or registered voters – a vote on the Northside is significantly diluted compared to the steroid-like votes on the Southside.