Dallas County Case


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 Harding v. County of Dallas, Texas

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The Voting Rights Act was the crowning achievement of the Civil Rights Movement.  50 years ago, Congress passed it to prevent local governments from rigging elections so that only favored races could win.  That bold act restored the promises made in the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.  It re-established that the same rules would apply when every American went to vote, regardless of race, and required that state and local governments equally protect every race’s voting rights.  All Americans can and should be proud of that history.

Over the fifty years since, Courts have interpreted the VRA to protect minorities from being “diluted” through maps that slice-and-dice them between districts to deny them a fair shot in elections.  Instead, Courts have insisted that maps include districts that allow minorities the chance to elect their preferred candidates to office.

Over that same time, America has seen vast demographic changes and begun to enter a more diverse future.  In this more diverse landscape, what race is at risk of targeting by those in power depends on facts on the ground.

Harding v. Dallas County is the first case in the nation to seek to bring the original understanding of the Voting Rights Act to bear in this new demographic reality, seeking the same protections that Courts have long granted racial minorities for a local racial minority targeted by those in power for disenfranchisement through “dilution.”

Dallas County, Texas is governed by a County Commissioner’s Court comprised of five (5) members — four (4) elected in districts, with another elected at-large.  The Commissioners’ Court created its current district map after the 2010 census.  When it did so, those in power punished the out-of-favor local racial minority, carving them between districts so that they could hope to influence the election of just one Commissioner, even though they made up fully 48% of the county’s electorate.   Yes, the Commissioners Court map lets just under half the population elect only a fifth of the County’s representatives.  You can see the Discriminating Map here.

The Commissioners Court could have acted differently.  They could have drawn a second district where the local minority could hope to elect their preferred commissioner.  Had they drawn a map that better respected Dallas’s political subdivisions and more fairly apportioned Dallas’s citizens and residents among the districts, they would have produced such a map.  But they didn’t.

That’s why EVRI and a group of affected voters filed suit against Dallas in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas on January 15, 2015.  You can see the Complaint here.  Through it, EVRI simply asks the Court to assure the equal protection of a minority from abuse by local governments, exactly as sought by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson so many years ago.

Related Document(s):

Press Release

Defendants’ Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss

Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion to Dismiss

Defendants’ Reply Brief Supporting Motion to Dismiss

Court’s Memorandum and Order Denying Motion to Dismiss