Caldwell sues over Louisiana's lost congressional seat

Jessica M. Karmasek Nov. 15, 2011, 10:28am


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, in a lawsuit filed Monday, says the federal government is wrong to take away one of the state's congressional seats.

Caldwell filed the suit in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The named defendants are Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, and Karen Lehman Haas, clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The attorney general is challenging the defendants' decision to count illegal foreign nationals in calculating the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House.

"The text, history, and structure of the Constitution's Apportionment Clauses demonstrate their overriding purpose of aligning the apportionment of House seats and electors with the States' political communities," Caldwell wrote in his 38-page complaint.

"The Court has long recognized the principle that citizens' votes are due 'equal weight,' and the Apportionment Clauses, while reinforcing that principle, extend it to guarantee equal weight of representation to the States and their lawful residents, or inhabitants.

"Defendants' practice to the contrary is irreconcilable with the constitutional text and its purpose and denies the Plaintiffs, as well as other States and millions of Americans, their rightful equal and proportionate representation in Congress and the Electoral College."

In particular, Caldwell says the decision deprives Louisiana of an additional member of Congress to which the state is entitled, and dilutes the strength of votes cast by Louisiana residents.

To properly apportion seats in the U.S. House, the Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years to count the number of lawful residents in each state.

In the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau included illegal foreign nationals, along with holders of guest-worker visas and student visas, in the count of lawful residents of each state.

As a result, states with large numbers of illegal foreign nationals gained congressional seats, while states with low numbers of illegal foreign nationals -- like Louisiana, in this case -- lost seats.

According to the Times-Picayune, state lawmakers were forced to decrease the number of the state's congressional districts from seven to six during a special legislative session in March.

"Louisiana's complaint simply asks the Court to require the federal government to recalculate the 2010 apportionment of U.S. House of Representative seats based on legal residents -- just as the Constitution requires," Caldwell said in a statement.

The attorney general says the requested relief in the suit will not require a new census because the needed information is already available in the 2010 Census results.

Congressional elections under the new redistricting plan will be held next fall as long as a lawsuit doesn't stop it, the Times-Picayune reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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Louisiana Attorney General
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