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Archived: Constitutional Liberties Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, Mountain States Legal Foundation has been a national leader in seeking to ensure the liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. For example, before the U.S. Supreme Court and in various federal appellate and trial courts throughout the country, MSLF has set valuable legal precedent to achieve the goal of our Founding Fathers--a colorblind Constitution. MSLF victories before the U.S. Supreme Court in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education, 476 U.S. 267 (1986) and Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 115 S.Ct. 2097 (1995), have changed race-based decision making by the federal government forever! MSLF continues its fight to ensure that the Constitution is interpreted as intended by its framers.

Evenwel v. Abbott

Legal Question:

Whether the “one-person, one-vote” principle of the Fourteenth Amendment creates a judicially enforceable right ensuring that the districting process does not deny voters an equal vote?

Petitioners

Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger

Respondents

Greg Abbott, in his official capacity as Governor of Texas, and Nandita Berry, in her official capacity as Texas Secretary of State

Amicus Curiae:

Mountain States Legal Foundation

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States

None

 

Ms. Evenwel and Mr. Pfenninger, both of whom reside in districts significantly overpopulated with voters as compared to other districts, brought a constitutional challenge to a Texas Senate apportionment plan.  The plan in question created districts with roughly equal total population (i.e., all persons counted in the decennial Census) but with gross disparities in voters or potential voters.  The Texans allege that the plan violates the one-person, one-vote principle of the Fourteenth Amendment, as set forth in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). In particular, the Texans claim that the Texas Senate map violated this principle because “when members of an elected body are chosen from separate districts, each district must be established on a basis that will insure, as far as is practicable, that equal numbers of voters can vote for proportionally equal numbers of officials.”

The Texas Senate redistricting plan created thirty-one Texas Senate districts with roughly equal total population but with huge disparities in the number of eligible voters.  The Texans who sued live in districts significantly overpopulated with eligible voters as compared to other districts in the same plan.  Due to the overpopulation of eligible voters in the Texans’ districts, their vote is worth significantly less than those voters who live in districts under-populated with eligible voters.  In fact, the deviation between eligible voters in some Texas Senate districts approaches 50 percent.

On November 5, 2014, a three-judge federal district dismissed the Texans suit for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.  The district court held that the Texas Legislature’s decision to create Senate districts using total population was judicially unreviewable.  On December 4, 2014, the appellants filed their notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.  On March 5, 2015, MSLF filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Texans.  On May 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to review the ruling.

On July 31, 2015, the Texans filed their opening brief on the merits.  On August 7, 2015, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of MSLF in support of the Texans.  On September 18, 2015, the Governor filed his response brief.  On October 9, 2015, Evenwel filed her reply brief.  Oral argument was held on December 8, 2015.  On April 4, 2016, The Court unanimously affirmed the judgment of the district court.


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