Galveston County Commissioners Court violated the Voting Rights Act when it approved a 2021 map that greatly limited voting power for Black and Latino voters in the county, a judge ruled Friday.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey V. Brown found that the map “denies Black and Latino voters the equal opportunity to participate in the political process and the opportunity to elect a representative of their choice to the commissioners court.” Brown was nominated by Donald Trump in 2019 to the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Commissoner’s court must file a revised redistricting plan by Oct. 20 to be adopted before the window to submit applications for the 2024 Galveston County Commissoner’s Court election opens on November 11. The deadline to file is December 11.
“We are thrilled with today’s decision – now, Black and Latino Galveston residents will once again have a fair shot to influence the decisions that shape their community,” Sarah Xiyi Chen, attorney for the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a press release about the verdict.
Commissioner Stephen Holmes has represented Precinct 3 since 1999, which previously consisted of the county’s sole non-white voting majority – near 58 percent – and represented cities such as La Marque, Dickinson and parts of Texas City.
The newly adopted 2021 map shifted Precinct 3 to the northern border of the county and consists of predominantly white voters. Under this new map, minority voters made up less than a third of Precinct 3.
If the map were to stand, Holmes would most likely not be re-elected and Galveston Commissoner’s court would turn into a 5-0 Republican majority.
The consolidated lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Galveston branches of the NAACP and the local League of United Latin American Citizens, the U.S. Department of Justice and current and former county leadership.
This lawsuit was the first test of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 since the Supreme Court upheld it in June in regard to the redistricting of Alabama’s congressional maps. This section prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race or color.
Robert Quintero, president of the Galveston branch of LULAC, said challenging the maps was important to ensure a representative of color was able to stay on the court after the two-week trial in August.
“We would not have a representative that looked like one of us on the Commissioner’s court and had a vested interest in our community,” he said.
Quintero said his organization and other minority groups in the county weren’t given the opportunity to be included in the conversations about redistricting.
“Everybody wants inclusion unless they look like me,” he said.
Chen, the attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said their hope is for a fair map to be in place before the candidate filing deadline in November.
See here for my previous entry, and here for some more information about the case. As of when I drafted this, it is not clear if the county will appeal, but I tend to assume they will. That would go to the Fifth Circuit – I believe, as this was not a Congressional redistricting case and it wasn’t handled by a three-judge panel – and we all know what that means, even with this ruling being handed down by a Trump-appointed judge. I’ll keep an eye on that. The Chron and the Trib have more.