Evenwel stands to wipe out decades of Latino civil rights progress

Latino Victory
Dec 8, 2015 · 3 min read

By: Cristóbal J. Alex, Latino Victory Project President

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear arguments for Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that could have disastrous consequences for representation in our democracy — especially for Latinos.

The plaintiff in the case is challenging the 14th Amendment’s “one person, one vote” principle, arguing that the state should draw legislative district lines not based on the total population, as it is currently done, but based on some other measure of the voter eligible population — CVAP (Citizen Voting Age Population), voter registration, or voter turnout — all of which would leave out children under 18 and immigrants who have not yet naturalized. Never mind that the data to draw districts using any of the flawed and manipulative measures is not currently available.

In effect, Latino-heavy districts and other districts with lots of children and more diverse populations would be allocated fewer representatives, while majority-white districts would be allocated more representatives. According to an amicus brief by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, this would mean excluding approximately 55 percent of the Latino population nationwide.

Although this particular case only applies to statewide offices, if the Supreme Court agrees with Evenwel, the voter population rule could ultimately apply to districts in all levels of government, leading to a nation where millions are subject to laws that are written and upheld by those who no longer represent them or their interests. Communities of color — including Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans — children, and non-voters stand to lose the most.

In our representative democracy, elected officials represent everyone in their district, not just those who vote. They make decisions on how to allocate money for schools, roads, and law enforcement, which benefit everyone in the community regardless of age or status. All residents need to be counted in order to allocate money and resources correctly. By excluding people under 18 and non-citizens, the Supreme Court would essentially create a second status of people who are subject to laws written by those who are not accountable or truly “representative” of the people.

Decades of boycotts, marches, speeches, organizing, and bitterly fought-for civil rights to improve the Latino community’s way of life may take one significant step back wiping out decades of progress towards a more perfect union.

A ruling in favor of Evenwel will put in danger Latino-held seats and Latino representation across the country. For example, one whole Latino-majority Texas State Senate district along the border with Mexico will move to another, less diverse part of the state. There are currently 5 districts along the border that would lose representation — that’s 20% of the representation for border communities that could disappear overnight. Imagine the same happening across the country.

At a time when the Latino community is still facing xenophobic rhetoric spewed by certain candidates in the presidential campaign trail, denying us fair representation in government will take us backwards and significantly erode Latino political power.

We have fought this battle many times over. Evenwel v. Abbott is a threat to the voice of the Latino community in the United States. The actors and the means may be different, but the story is ultimately the same. Latinos have had to endure the outright suppression of our civil rights in the United States for over a century. Our Constitution makes clear that every person has to be counted, regardless of citizenship, and we will keep fighting to ensure that is still the case.

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