Petteway v. Galveston County

Voting Rights
Person holding signs that say "no new jim crow" and "let the people vote"

Case Summary

Formerly Dickinson Bay Area NAACP v. Galveston County
Filed 04/14/2022
Updated 06/04/2024

Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed this challenge to the Galveston County Commissioners' 2021 precinct map in April 2022 on behalf of three local NAACP branches (Dickinson Bay Area, Galveston Branch, and Mainland Branch), the local Galveston LULAC Council 151, and three Black and Latino voters (Edna Courville, Joe A. Compian, and Leon Phillips), in partnership with co-counsel from Texas Civil Rights Project and Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Following a two-week trial, Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas held the 2021 precinct map presented a clear violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it "summarily carved up and wiped off the map" the sole majority-minority district in the county. Finding defendants' actions "egregious" and "mean-spirited," the trial court held the new map would silence and "shut out" Black and Latino voters, who make up 40% of the county's voting age population, from any representation before their county government.

The county appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of appeals, a panel of which affirmed the trial court judgment in November 2023. A majority of judges on the Fifth Circuit voted to consider the case en banc to decide whether to upend nearly four decades of Circuit case law recognizing the right of Black and Latino voters to jointly challenge voting plans under Section 2. The en banc Fifth Circuit heard oral argument on May 14, 2024.

Why it's Important

After the Supreme Court struck down the pre-clearance formula and rendered Section 5 of the Voting Rights unenforceable, a rash of discriminatory voting laws were passed in states previously under preclearance. Galveston County was no exception, and following the 202 census county officials redrew county commissioner precincts to destroy the only majority-minjority district electing a candidate of choice for its 40% of Black and Latino residents. On appeal, defendants are now arguing that minority citizens must all pass a single-race requirement in order to challenge voting plans that discirminate against minority residence in yet another effort to errode the longstanding protections afforded under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

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