Petteway v. Galveston County, Texas


At a Glance

Galveston County, Texas has a long history of diminishing the voting strength of Black and Latino voters in county-wide elections. To enable voters to decide elections’ outcomes, CLC is representing several Galveston County residents to challenge Galveston County’s ongoing discrimination in drawing maps for the Commissioners Court and Justices of the Peace Court in the county.

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We can't have a fair and inclusive democracy unless all voters have an equal voice. 

Black and Latino voters in Galveston County, Texas have long been denied a voice in county government — an unjust reality considering those groups comprise nearly half of the county’s population. 

But today, in a victory for the voters of Galveston County, Texas and...

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About this Case

In 2011, Galveston County passed maps for the Commissioners Court and Justices of the Peace Court which diminished the ability of Black and Latino voters to elect candidates for those offices. The county redrew the maps so that almost no district could elect a candidate of choice of Black and Latino voters. The Department of Justice objected to the maps under the preclearance process of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, and the county was forced to reconsider their discriminatory maps. After the U.S. Supreme Court held that the preclearance process no longer applied in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, however, the county passed a more discriminatory map for the justices of the peace. As a result, in 2013, several Galveston County residents filed a lawsuit against the county adopting a justices of the peace map that discriminated against Black and Latino voters.

The 2020 Census revealed significant population growth among Black and Latino residents in Galveston County. Accordingly, the county redrew the maps for the Commissioners Court to ensure that Black and Latino voters would not be able to elect a representative for the Commissioners Court in any of the districts. Furthermore, the new map adopted by the county virtually ensures the electoral defeat of the sole candidate of choice for Black and Latino voters who currently sits on the Commissioners Court. The county adopted this map with the intent of discriminating against Black and Latino voters to ensure that they would not have a voice in county government. Finally, the county chose not to change the already-discriminatory map for the Justices of the Peace Court for which they are currently being sued.

The county’s actions represent a larger pattern of local governments which are engaging in discriminatory redistricting processes after the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census marked the first redistricting cycle in 50 years in which the full VRA is no longer in effect. Accordingly, local governments that formerly had to submit their redistricting plans to the federal government under preclearance — including Galveston County — are no longer subject to federal oversight after the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. These counties have a history of discrimination against voters of color and are now reengaging in discriminatory redistricting practices with impunity.

In 2021, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) joined the ongoing lawsuit, first filed in 2013, to represent Galveston County voters against the ongoing racial discrimination by Galveston County. These voters live in Commissioners Court and Justices of the Peace Court districts which were intentionally drawn to deprive them of the equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.

CLC filed a supplemental complaint on behalf of the voters to challenge the ongoing discrimination which occurred after the 2020 Census, in violation of the VRA and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

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