Let’s focus on the principle that every American, for as long as this country has been a country, has been counted to create districts for representation. Even Black people – we may have only been counted as three-fifths of a man, but we were still factored into the drawing of district lines. In the time before the Suffrage movement, women were counted, as were non-land owners and convicts. This has been the practice in our democracy for as long as the democracy has existed.
Yet, in the latest saga of radical conservatives wanting to protect themselves from being outvoted by minorities who will eventually outnumber them, comes the case of Evenwel v. Abbott that will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States on December 8.
This case has flown under the radar, but it is supremely significant. The case was brought forth by the plaintiff, Sue Evenwel, a Texas Republican Party leader who is working with a group that has attacked both affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act in recent years. Ms. Evenwel’s goal is to exclude non-voters from the population count in drawing state legislative district lines. Minority communities that tend to have greater numbers of people in younger age groups will be underrepresented. In the Black community specifically, nearly one out of every three people is under the age of 18. In other communities, the numbers are greater: One-third of Native Americans; 45 percent of Asian-Americans and 55 percent of Hispanics are under the age of 18 and would not be counted when drawing legislative districts. When the district lines are drawn in these communities, that will mean only 2/3 of Black people will count, while in the Hispanic community, only 45 percent of people will count and receive the full benefit of representation.
Children and families will be impacted when it comes to the services they need most and the issues that are most important to them. Dealing with the aftermath of this decision could lead to millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on lawsuits challenging the decision. We will also see elected officials that represent the areas they serve lose their seats. Evenwel’s position is so extreme that the defendant in the case is a member of the same party, Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Every person deserves to be counted and given equal protection, not just some of us. This latest attempt continues the conservative view that there should be fewer people participating in and covered by the democratic process. They are building on a foundation that threatens this nation by adding to their already egregious voter ID laws, elimination or reduction of early voting days, and other policies that continue to make it harder for people to be represented by elected officials. If Sue Evenwel wins her case in front of the Supreme Court, impact will be felt by communities across this nation. The case will be decided in the spring of 2016.
Janaye Ingram is the National Executive Director of National Action Network (NAN) and oversees NAN’s action agenda and legislative advocacy work under Founder and President, Rev. Al Sharpton. In this role, Ingram focuses on issues such as education, criminal justice, housing, technology, economic development and healthcare, among others.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty