Contact: Terry O’Rourke
Special Assistant County Attorney
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Harris County seeking to ensure that everyone is counted when government boundaries are determined.
Ryan’s brief was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court today in the case of Sue Evenwel, et al versus Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Harris County is siding with the State of Texas in opposing Evenwel’s claim that only voting-eligible persons be counted to determine government boundaries, leaving children and resident immigrants uncounted and unrepresented.
“The Courts have historically and consistently held that the one-person, one-vote principle means all people must be counted,” Ryan said.
“The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no state shall ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law,’” Ryan said. “The writers of the Constitution never intended to discount children and immigrants.”
In addition, the Harris County brief points out that both the U.S. House and Senate debated population vs. voter representation in 1866 when considering the Fourteenth Amendment and both voted overwhelmingly for population-based apportionment.
Ryan explained that while children do not vote, the resources we allocate to their education, healthcare, and safety determine the community’s future stability and prosperity. To the extent the county loses representation, which would be the effect of Evenwel’s legal theory, resources will be re-directed to less populous areas.
“Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, pay taxes and contribute to the economy,” Ryan explained. “They use roads, schools, and other services and facilities provided by the state and county. The rules and laws adopted by the state or the county apply to them just as they do to citizens.”
“Harris County is an international community, welcoming its residents from more than 110 different countries,” Ryan said. “It has proportionately a larger percentage of children and non-citizens than the state as a whole. As a result, a change in the model of representation from a population-based metric to one based on eligible voters will result in a decrease of the county’s representation in the state legislature along with an accompanying increase of representation for areas with lower populations.”