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Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas Welcome to the Official Website for the Texas Senate
Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas
Welcome to the official website for the
Texas Senate
Senator Sylvia R. Garcia: District 6
December 3, 2015
Contact: Paul Townsend
All Persons Should be Treated Equally

Next week, I will travel to Washington, D.C. to hear the opening arguments in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States that could have a huge negative impact on the constituents in my Senate district. The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, will examine whether Texas may continue to use total population when apportioning state legislative districts, or whether Texas will instead have to use the citizen voting age population (“CVAP”). I am making this trip because this case is aimed at suppressing the political strength of Latino voters.

Historically, the Supreme Court has said that the Equal Protection Clause contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires a state to construct its legislative districts “as nearly of equal population as is practicable.” For example, Texas Senate districts contain about 806,000 constituents on average. However, if CVAP were used instead of total population only citizens 18 years or older that are eligible to vote would be counted when determining how many people will be in each district. Districts with large immigrant communities would be forced to add thousands of constituents, diluting the power of their minority voters. In my district, Senate District 6, the number of total constituents would balloon from about 831,000 to over 1 million, while the number of registered Latino voters would drop from 55% to 45%.

It is ironic that the parties seeking to use the CVAP standard argue that it is required under the Equal Protection Clause considering that this language was added to the Constitution in an effort to prevent the states from having the ability to discriminate. Using CVAP would strip state legislative seats out of diverse areas such as Dallas, Houston, South and West Texas. Removing predominantly Latino populations from apportionment would shift seats to more Anglo and older population centers in Central and East Texas. Districts would essentially become older, whiter, wealthier and more likely to vote Republican. Texas is one of the most diverse states in the country and its elected officials should reflect that.

It is also important to remember that CVAP wouldn't just hurt Latinos, but everyone that lives in a community with a large Latino population, or any community with a diverse population. All of these districts would get diluted representation and become unwieldy in size. Our elected officials and their staffs in these districts would be spread thinner, resulting in a reduction of constituent services for these constituents. This would harm Democrat and Republican voters alike.

The drafters of the Equal Protection Clause intended that all persons enjoy equal protection of the laws, whether they be white, Latino, Democrat, Republican, citizen or noncitizen. This case is an obvious attempt to weaken the political power of Latinos and other immigrant populations in Texas and across the country that tend to vote Democratic. I hope that the Supreme Court will see through this anti-immigrant, partisan charade and leave the longstanding total population metric in place to ensure that all persons in Texas have equal representation.

State Senator Sylvia R. Garcia represents Senate District 6 in Harris County.