Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on ‘One Person, One Vote’

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Examining a Voting Rights Case.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a voting rights case that has the potential to shift political power from urban areas to rural ones, a move that would provide a big boost to Republican voters in many parts of the nation. Last month, all three women made history, becoming the first individuals of Hispanic heritage to win election to the seven-member city council traditionally dominated by white conservatives.On December 9, the US Supreme Court will once again take up the case of Abigail Fisher, a former applicant rejected for admission to the University of Texas at Austin, whose allegations of unfair racial bias against white candidates stand to challenge affirmative action programs across the country at a time of heightened tension surrounding race and privilege at campuses from upstate New York to Southern California.

While their victories sparked celebrations in some parts of town, the achievement came after years of bitter litigation that prompted the redrafting of voting districts and required three Anglo council members to stand for reelection or leave office halfway through their four-year terms. In 2013, the Court avoided ruling in the case, which was assembled with the help of anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, by vacating a ruling by the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals and sending the case back to a federal appeals court. Abbott, No. 14-940, will address a question many thought had been settled long ago: What is the meaning of the principle of “one person, one vote”?

Abbott, the plaintiffs want Texas to count only voters or citizens eligible to vote in determining state Senate lines instead of the longtime standard of counting the entire population. The principle, rooted in cases from the 1960s that revolutionized democratic representation in the United States, applies to the entire American political system aside from the Senate, where voters from states with small populations have vastly more voting power than those with large ones. A decision to exclude noncitizens and people under 18 would have a dramatic impact on districts with large Latino populations and would affect every level of state and local government. Council members filed an appeal raising a fundamental question: Does the constitutional principle of one person, one vote permit a federal judge to draw voting districts that enhance the power of individual voters in minority districts while diluting voters’ clout in predominantly Anglo districts? Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger highlighted the difference in eligible voters in the mainly rural districts outside Houston, Texas, where they live, and those in a downtown Houston district with equal population, but at least 170,000 fewer eligible voters.

Sue Evenwel lives in Titus County in northeast Texas, and lawyers for co-plaintiff Edward Pfenninger of Montgomery County and her maintain that their Senate districts have far more registered voters than other urban-dominated areas do. “So all the districts have about the same number of residents, but they have different numbers of citizens and different numbers of eligible voters,” legal expert Andrew Grossman said in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation. Although some anticipate that the case will be decided on details, such as why Fisher was rejected or how campus diversity would be impacted by a new admissions policy, the justices’ willingness to reexamine the case may indicate their diverging views of how to understand equality and diversity in an era when understandings of “diversity” are in flux.

Evenwel and Pfenninger said the state Senate redistricting map signed into law in 2013 did not equally distribute voters, improperly inflating the voting power of urban areas and giving them more sway in dictating the outcome of elections. The total population is then divided into districts that, under the “one-person, one-vote” precedent, are supposed to have roughly equal populations. Americans decrying “reverse racism” claim that diversity policies are not truly “colorblind,” while affirmative action advocates claim the call to “colorblindness” misunderstands the purpose and history of policies meant to level the playing field. Conservative groups have said the current system distorts the rights of non-voters in the democratic process, particularly in states such as California, Texas and Florida, where larger numbers of non-citizen immigrants live and are counted in the census figures.

Sims, that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution required districts to be based on population, not geography. “Legislators represent people, not trees,” wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren. Under Texas law, the UT system guarantees admission to in-state students in the top 10 percent of their class, a highly competitive system that advocates say helps guarantee a fair shot for students at under-resourced schools, many of them black and Hispanic, whose educational opportunities wouldn’t let them compete with wealthy suburban students purely on the basis of test scores and easily-quantifiable factors.

By their math, the fluctuation of noncitizen population from district to district means some voters cast ballots weighing 1-1/2 times more than those in other districts. Texas maintains that it should be able to choose the option of using voter criteria or population based on earlier court rulings, even if it’s opted for population as the basis. The case could reshape electoral maps nationwide by addressing the underlying question of whether those who can’t vote should continue to be included in the drawing of districts. “Instances of extreme electoral imbalance are not confined to Texas,” writes Francis Floyd of the Seattle law firm Floyd, Pflueger & Ringer in a friend of the court brief filed on behalf of Yakima in the Texas case. “This issue will occur with increasing regularity due to the combination of shifting demographic trends and the efforts of organizations like the ACLU using litigation to impose single-member districts on jurisdictions,” said Mr.

With the U.S. presidential election less than a year away, the backdrop of voting rights has created a political battle between Republicans and Democrats. They are represented by the Project on Fair Representation, a small conservative advocacy group that has been active in cases concerning race and voting. To fill the remaining eight percent of seats, admissions officers considered the total of two scores, one for a student’s strictly academic accomplishments, and one for a “personal achievement index,” which includes criteria such as admissions essays, extracurriculars, and socioeconomic factors like native language, race, and social class.

Holder, which effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, told McClatchy. “For Tarrant County in particular, this could mean that over 100,000 noncitizens would no longer be counted when assigning representation, according to a 2015 Migration Policy Institute report, and 27 percent of the county would be discounted due to be their age, according to the 2014 U.S. Now with an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US, total population in many jurisdictions no longer tracks citizen-voter demographics. As a state school, UT is bound to the Constitution’s equal-protection clause, which Fisher’s team argues that race-conscious admissions policies violate. Other public universities are watching the case closely, as are private schools who receive federal funding, many of which insist on the necessity of their race-conscious policies and hope that Fisher v.

And he and other Democrats point to the person instrumental in bringing the case, Ed Blum, a conservative activist who was also a central figure in Fisher v. Almost all states and localities count everyone, and the Constitution requires “counting the whole number of persons in each state” for apportioning seats in the House of Representatives among the states.

For instance, rural areas sometimes gain additional voting power from prisoners incarcerated in the district who cannot vote but who are counted as residents. Citizens for Community Action, the Justices wrote in 1977 that “[I]n voting for their legislators, all citizens have an equal interest in representative democracy” and “the concept of equal protection therefore requires that their votes be given equal weight.” The Court has also acknowledged that when total population and the number of eligible voters diverge, representation should follow the eligible voters. With a modest SAT score of 1180 out of 1600, Fisher’s credentials were most likely not up to snuff for Texas’ flagship school, regardless of her race, as ProPublica reported in 2013. A brief filed by Nathaniel Persily, a political scientist at Stanford Law School, and several colleagues said there is only one constitutionally required and reliable data set: the census. But if the court requires states to use eligible-voter data instead, then, Persily told The Daily Beast, “every city, county, and school board in the country would have to redraw its lines.

Richardson, the Court approved a Hawaii districting plan based on eligible voters because to do it based on total population would have meant counting tourists and military personnel. Provisional admission was offered to roughly 50 students with grades and scores lower than hers, but the vast majority were white, and 168 minority students with equal or better grades were also rejected.

Fisher was offered admission as a sophomore, if she could maintain a 3.2 grade point average at another Texas university her freshman year, but turned it down in favor of Louisiana State University. Texas and the Obama Administration claim that their way of counting total population must be used because it’s impossible to break down illegal immigrant populations by district.

But today, the concept that laws must be “colorblind” is often used to argue against programs meant to help minorities, with anti-affirmative action voices arguing that considering race at all amounts to racism. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney outpolled President Obama in Yakima County by 11 points, 54 percent to 43 percent. “Yakima is a conservative place,” says Dave Ettl, a city council member slated to leave office at the end of the month after having his term cut short by the judge.

William Leiter, professor emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, also says that equal opportunity may have given way to unequal preference. “The diversity theory emphasizes that groups are different and they bring different capacities to the academic arena,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “That’s a major departure from traditional civil rights law; the 1964 Civil Rights Act said there were not supposed to be any differences between the treatment of blacks, whites, and anybody else.” Critics say that ignores the historical context of the amendment, and the original need for “colorblindness” itself, which was intended to help groups who experienced present or past discrimination overcome those disadvantages. Others have offered a darker explanation: that the city’s Anglo residents were voting as a bloc to systematically deprive Latinos of political power.

The amendment recognizes “an enormous difference between a white majority disadvantaging minorities and a white majority acting to remedy past discrimination,” former University of California, Irvine, School of Law dean Erwin Chemerinsky told ProPublica. According to researchers from Tufts University and the Harvard Business School, white Americans now feel that they face more discrimination they believe black Americans do. “Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing,” the authors titled their paper. US District Judge Thomas Rice, an appointee of President Obama, agreed and ordered the city to create seven city council districts, adopting in total the ACLU’s proposed districts.

The new districts were drawn to maximize Latino voting power in part by using the city’s large population of Latino noncitizens to fill out Districts 1 and 2. Conservative judges often claim original intent as a value, in opposition to allegedly “activist” judges who interpret the Constitution through a modern-day lens. It is usually safe to presume two things when the court adds a case to its docket: at least four justices wanted to hear it, and the party that filed the appeal is likely to win. Holder decision that eviscerated the VRA in 2013) and who is funded by anonymous conservative donors whose identities are shielded by financial nondisclosure rules. The issue is whether the Justices are going to apply their precedents to new circumstances, or are they going to implicitly overturn Reynolds because it’s too politically inconvenient?

They include Councilman Ettl and Mayor Micah Cawley, who was reelected to a four-year-term in 2013, winning 11,605 votes – 95 percent of ballots cast under the old city-wide election system. He said the judicial-ordered election system produced uneven results in last month’s election. “It is troublesome in a city of our size where you can get a few hundred votes and get elected to the city council,” he said. Add in districts where those votes “count more” than white suburban ones, and you can see the Texas old boy network disappearing like beer at a barbecue. In fact, though the Constitution is silent on state representation, everywhere it talks about federal representation it uses the word “people,” which included non-voting women and non-voting slaves.

Indeed, as Persily noted, the loathsome Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of white men, was all about representation in Congress. Asked what advice she would offer to other cities with a significant Latino population, Mendez says to make sure all residents receive fair representation. “I would say if [city officials] don’t want to be sued, they should look at their voting system and whether it is representative of their constituents,” she said. If slaves, who could not vote, weren’t counted, the Southern states would have had 30 percent fewer electoral votes for president, and 30 percent fewer seats in Congress.

But it would be quite odd for the Constitution to require counting voters (not population) for states while remaining totally silent on the matter, and while requiring the exact opposite (population, not voters) for federal purposes. Ettl says that cities must consciously reach out to minority residents and recruit quality minority candidates. “But I wouldn’t rig the deck and draw the district lines based on race.”

Second, as Persily said, “there’s a lot of unfairness in the political system” and a change in the way districts are drawn would simply move the unfairness around. Surely, resources would be allocated as a result, thus favoring the districts with lots of voters, but fewer people—who, let’s remember, are already disproportionately white, rich, and powerful.

Police: Student stabbed at Baltimore high school dies

20 Jan 2016 | Author: | No comments yet »

Police Identify Student Killed In City School Stabbing.

Baltimore police spokesman T.J. The teen had been in class on the third floor of the school building in the 1300 block of McCulloh Street when a sophomore went into the classroom and stabbed him at approximately noon on Tuesday, Nov. 24, police reported. Police said Sunday that investigators are collaborating with the state’s attorney’s office to file additional charges now that the victim has died. Crawford remains in police custody, officials reported. “It’s a tragedy anytime we have someone killed in an act of violence, even moreso when it’s a child.

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