The lawsuit argued the city was violating its own charter by refusing to redistrict and add two council districts when its population passed the 2.1 million threshhold in late 2006.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake rejected that contention, finding the plaintiffs had failed to show the city's charter compelled redistricting. Martinez promised an appeal.
"This is just the first step in a long marathon," he said, noting that the outcome of the case could depend on a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with voting rights that originated in Austin. "Nobody should take any happiness out of this very preliminary ruling by the court. In the end, justice has not been done with a 30-year agreement and contract the city made with the Houston Latino community."
City Attorney Arturo Michel said the ruling upholds the city's contention that it could not follow federal law regarding redistricting without the accuracy provided by the upcoming decennial population count by the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal law requires precinct-level data for redistricting, which would not be available until after the 2010 count. Using data from the 2000 count, the city argued, would lead to inaccurate district boundaries.
"That will allow you to identify where voters are and come up with the representation system that is the fairest," Michel said. "What's more important is that you have a complete and accurate Census count so that you know where people are, and then you can divide your districts in a way that will be fairest to everyone."