VICTORY: Federal Court Strikes Down Racially Discriminatory Galveston County, Texas Voting Maps that Denied Black and Latino Voters a Voice
In a victory for the voters of Galveston County, Texas, a federal judge ruled today that Galveston County’s 2021 redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and denies Black and Latino voters the equal opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.
The decision characterizes Galveston County’s voting plan – enacted after the first redistricting cycle in which Galveston County was not subject to federal preclearance under the federal VRA – as “mean-spirited” and “egregious.”
In 2021, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the UCLA Voting Rights Project and Neil Baron joined the ongoing redistricting fight, which began in 2013, to represent Galveston County voters against racial discrimination by Galveston County in its voting maps.
“Today’s historic decision underscores a simple fact: Galveston County’s Black and Latino residents deserve a voice in government.” said Mark Gaber, senior director of redistricting at Campaign Legal Center (CLC). “After decades of discrimination, this most recent voting map was just the latest blatant attempt to silence Galveston County’s Black and Latino voters. The court’s decision is a momentous step in addressing that injustice and ensuring that Galveston County’s Black and Latino residents can elect a representative who will best serve their communities.”
The case, Petteway v. Galveston County, Texas, was one of the first racial vote dilution cases to go to trial after the U.S. Supreme Court validated Section 2 of the VRA in June’s Allen v. Milligan decision.
Following 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, Galveston County became one of the first jurisdictions to enact discriminatory voting maps. Then, in the 2021 redistricting cycle–the first that took place since Shelby County gutted preclearance–Galveston County once again enacted voting maps that ignored Black and Latino voters entirely, despite those voters comprising nearly half of all people in the county.
The new map specifically targeted the county commission district known as Precinct 3. Under the old map, the precinct encompassed the heart of Galveston County, including an area where the majority of voters were Black or Hispanic. The new map added the largely white northwest corner of the county to Precinct 3, a blatant attempt to drown out the voices of Black and Latino voters.
Today’s decision agreed, noting: “It is stunning how completely the county extinguished the Black and Latino communities’ voice on its commissioners court during 2021’s redistricting.”
Now, the county has until October 20, 2023 to propose a remedial plan; otherwise the Court will impose one before the November 11, 2023 qualifying period for the 2024 Commissioners Court elections.
More information about the case can be found here.