#EveryoneCounts: Everyone deserves representation, including children and refugees

Everyone counts_evenwel case

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | December 8, 2015 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) strongly believes that everyone deserves representation, including children and refugees. That is why we joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in supporting equal representation for equal numbers of people in the Supreme Court case of Evenwel v. Abbott.

Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott, a case that challenges the long-standing practice in the U.S. of counting every person when drawing electoral districts. The challenge seeks to narrow who is counted in districting using measures such as citizen voting age population, voter registration or voter turnout. If the Court agrees with Evenwel, it could result in a lack of representation for countless individuals, including immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities and families with children.

As Arab-Americans, we are already not counted on the U.S. Census, and not provided Arabic language assistance at the polls. Those of us who are citizens and can vote often face voter suppression efforts both in registration and at the polls. Now, plaintiffs in Texas are arguing that new immigrants and refugees should not even be counted for the purpose of drawing electoral districts.

Evenwel attempts to further marginalize immigrant communities:

Refugees are already an insular group of minorities, as they cannot vote. In 2014, over 7,000 refugees were resettled in Texas, the majority of whom were from Iraq and Myanmar. As noted by the Dallas Morning News, these refugees include Iraqis who have served for the U.S. army as interpreters. Evenwel essentially argues that these refugees should not be counted, and thus that the communities who welcome them should receive less representation in government.

We disagree. Communities that welcome refugees should not be penalized by losing legislators and legislative seats in government. ADC believes that everyone deserves representation, as required by the Constitution. That is why we joined the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in supporting electoral districts based on total population.

Click here to read the Leadership Conference Brief.

The brief was submitted by The Leadership Conference, Advancement Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the National Immigration Law Center and the NALEO Educational Fund, and was joined by a broad range of civil and human rights groups including the NAACP, the National Urban League, the League of Women Voters and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

ADC’s interest in this case arises from serious concerns that large segments of the Arab American community would be excluded from representation if the law required redistricting based on voter registration rather than total population. As one of the largest growing immigrant populations in the U.S., and a predominately Arabic native language speaking community, the Arab-American community currently faces significant barriers to voting. Financial barriers to naturalization impede voter registration. Once registered, the lack of efficient language access throughout the voting process decreases voter participation from our community.

Maintaining total population as the basis for redistricting will help to ensure that Arab Americans are counted and represented in the political system. ADC has a duty to voice the concerns on behalf of our constituents and the Arab-American community, whose rights will be fundamentally affected by the Court’s determination in this Case.

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