Should Texas' top courts be elected in single member districts?
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The state’s most powerful courts don’t exactly resemble the population outside of their chambers.
Though Latinos make up more than a quarter of the state’s voting-age population, just one — Justice Eva Guzman — sits on the nine-member Texas Supreme Court. The same goes for the nine-member Court of Criminal Appeals, where Judge Elsa Alcalapresides.
Seeking to bolster their chronically sparse representation, seven Latino voters are suing Texas, arguing that its longtime method of electing statewide judges dilutes the voting power of a rapidly growing racial group.
“This is a very important case,” said Jose Garza, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last week in a U.S. district court in Corpus Christi. “Latino voters don’t have a say in who gets elected to the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.”
For more than a century, judges on the state’s high courts run have run in at-large partisan elections, vying for votes across the state. They serve staggered six-year terms. In a bright-red state like Texas, that voting system yields staunchly Republican courts, limiting election drama to primary races.
The plaintiffs — six voters in Nueces County and one in El Paso — argue that the current system prevents Latinos from choosing the candidates they prefer. Latino candidates would more consistently nab places on the courts, they suggest, if Texas carved up the courts geographically, creating single-member districts.