Updated Dec. 1, 2023
GALVESTON, TX (Dec. 1, 2023) – The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas has implemented a remedial map for Galveston County, providing some long-awaited relief for Black and Latino voters before the 2024 election.
In his Nov. 30 order, Judge Jeffery Brown ordered the Galveston County Commissioners Court’s “Map 1” option to be used as a remedial map in 2024. The plaintiff groups had previously requested the map be used as it is considered a “least-changed” option and remedies the racial gerrymandering of the enacted map.
The order was issued after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit lifted an administrative stay on the remedial process.
“This order paves the way for Black and Latino Galveston residents to continue to have their voices represented on the commissioners’ court. The community is grateful for the Judge’s swift action to clarify that a legally compliant map is in place,” said Joaquin Gonzalez (he/him), Senior Supervising Attorney for the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Judge Brown’s order brings clarity and relief to Galveston County residents about the 2024 election, which map would apply, and whether Black and Latino voters would have a chance to continue electing a candidate of their choice to the Commissioners Court as they have for decades.
“The trial court’s order unambiguously serves the ‘bedrock tenet of election law: When an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled,’” Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Voting Rights Counsel at Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a Dec. 1 letter to the 5th Circuit. “Those rules are now clear and should not be disturbed.”
Originally posted on Nov. 30, 2023.
NEW ORLEANS (Nov. 30, 2023) – Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Texas Civil Rights Project, and their partners are calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to bring relief to Galveston County voters still living under a racially gerrymandered map, while the Court of Appeals approves an unnecessarily lengthy review of the case’s claims.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has granted an en banc review of the Black-Latino coalition claims in the redistricting case Petteway v. Galveston County, following an initial decision affirming that the map violated the Voting Rights Act. En banc means the entire court of appeals will review the case to determine if the initial appellate three-judge panel ruled correctly. Released on Nov. 28, the new order says the majority of judges agreed to rehear the case, though did not release the votes. The review is scheduled for the week of May 13, 2024.
This decision endangers the ability of Galveston County’s Black and Latino residents to elect the candidate of their choice to the County Commissioners Court in 2024. Despite the plaintiffs having won in the trial court on Oct. 13 and in the initial hearing on appeal on Nov. 10, the 5th Circuit had issued an administrative stay order preventing the trial court from holding remedial proceedings to put a new, legally compliant map in place.
In response to the Court’s decision, SCSJ, TCRP, and their partners have submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking that the remedial process setting forth a new map commence immediately.
“With each passing day (if left unchecked), this stay narrows the likelihood NAACP/LULAC Respondents and their members will have an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice to commissioners court in the 2024 election under a lawful map,” the brief says. “This is especially true if the administrative stay extends for the monthslong en banc consideration as scheduled.”
The lawsuit wasfiled by Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and Spencer & Associates, PLLC in 2022 on behalf of three Galveston-area branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) and the local council for the League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”), and three individual civil rights leaders, Edna Courville, Joe Compian, and Leon Phillips. The lawsuit was consolidated with similar suits by the U.S. Department of Justice and by other civil rights groups on behalf of local leaders Terry Petteway, Penny Pope, and Derreck Rose. Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP joined as counsel for the appeal process.
The district court found that the 2021 map “summarily carved up and wiped off the map” Galveston County’s Historic Precinct 3, the sole majority-minority commissioners precinct in the County electing the sole minority commissioner for decades. The district court also credited testimony for Plaintiffs’ experts that this map is a “textbook” racial gerrymander that would provide zero chance for Black and Latino voters to elect a candidate of their choice in a county.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is boldly serving the movement for equality and justice in and out of the courts. We use our tools of litigation and legal advocacy to protect and advance the civil rights of everyone in Texas, and we partner with communities across the state to serve the rising movement for social justice. We undertake our work with a vision of a Texas in which all communities can thrive with dignity, justice and without fear.
Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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