A person’s a person, no matter how small. – Dr. Seuss
On December 8,, 2015, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Evenwel v Abbott.
Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, the plaintiffs, would like to change the way that electoral districts are drawn in this country. Although the case pertains to Texas, it could have massive repercussions in other states.
Almost all state and local jurisdictions in the U.S. currently draw districts based on total population. But Ms Evenwel and Mr. Pfenninger feel that it is not fair to use total population as the basis for drawing voting districts. They want districts to be drawn based only on the number of voters. They want to exclude children. They don’t think they should count.
I am a pediatrician living in a Texas Senate District of deep South Texas. We have many, many children… precious children. We have almost 60,000 more children than Ms. Evenwel’s district. Our children have big dreams, and big needs. They depend on the adults in our region to protect them, educate them, care for their health and make sure they do not go hungry. We are a very poor region. We need elected officials who respond to our children’s needs, because they know the challenges facing our communities and our children. This will not happen, if we don’t count the kids.
Excluding children from the equation would ultimately lead to a dramatic shift in representation away from districts with high child populations. For South Texas, this would be devastating. Texas consistently ranks near the bottom of every measurement of child well-being. It is even worse for our area, which is one of the poorest regions of the state. We need more power to change state policy and budget decisions, not less.
I believe that in our democracy, elected officials should represent all the people in their jurisdiction, not just those who vote for them, or those who line their campaign pockets. I believe that is what most folks in this country believe as well. Sadly, we know this is too often not the case. And a move away from true democratic representation would surely be hastened by ignoring the children, by not counting the children.
In reality, the dark side of this appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is what they are not talking about. Texas Senate Districts 1 and 4 are predominately white districts, in fact these Districts have greater than 80 percent non-Hispanic voters. In addition, District 1 has only 24.7 percent children; District 4 has only 26.7 percent children. Senate District 27, the District encompassing the Lower Rio Grande Valley has almost 34 percent children and is over 90 percent Hispanic. And there is the rub. If their districts had growing numbers of white children, this case would never have been brought before the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in this case are represented by the Project for Fair Representation, an entity that has spent years working to undermine voting rights and is currently challenging affirmative action at the University of Texas.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small”…..or what color.