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 fair maps, a federal judge ruled 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 court’s decision is a momentous step in addressing decades of discrimination and ensures that Galveston County’s Black and Latino residents can elect a representative who will best serve their communities. It’s a historic decision; now, Galveston County’s Black and Latino residents can have a voice in government.
Following 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, Galveston County became one of the first jurisdictions to enact discriminatory voting maps — employing a mapmaker notorious for partisan and racial gerrymandering.
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 making up roughly 38% of the county's population. In 2022, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the UCLA Voting Rights Project and Neil Baron joined the ongoing redistricting fight.
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” and calling the discriminatory maps “mean-spirited” and “egregious.”
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.
After decades of discrimination, the most recent voting map struck down today was just the latest blatant attempt to silence Galveston County’s Black and Latino voters.
We are heartened that, after a two-week trial, Galveston County — the birthplace of Juneteenth — will now provide fair maps and an opportunity for Black and Latino voters to make their voices heard.