GALVESTON, TEXAS (Oct. 13, 2023) – Today, Judge Jeffrey V. Brown of the Southern District of Texas ruled in favor of civil rights groups’ argument that the 2021 Galveston County redistricting map was drawn in a way that discriminated against the county’s Black and Latino residents, and diluted their votes. The decision found that Galveston County’s map violated the Voting Rights Act. As a result of the decision, the county has been ordered to redraw the 2021 map by October 20, 2023. View the ruling here.
“We are thrilled with today’s decision – now, Black and Latino Galveston residents will once again have a fair shot to influence the decisions that shape their community,” said Sarah Xiyi Chen (she/her), Attorney for the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The residents of Galveston fought hard for this win, sharing their stories and pride from the historic Precinct 3 – we are glad they are finally able to get the relief they deserve. We hope the Commissioners Court takes this opportunity to draw a new map that ensures that the community will have their votes, voices, and needs heard for the next decade.”
“We are glad that the court ruled in favor of our clients and will hold the Galveston County Commissioners Court accountable for fixing this blatantly discriminatory map,” said Joaquin Gonzalez (he/him), Senior Supervising Attorney for the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “Racial gerrymandering is not a new tactic – it impacts voters of color every election cycle, and this case proves that voters will not sit idly by while politicians aim to diminish their power. We are proud of today’s outcome and of the Galveston community for taking on and winning their fight for representation.”
The lawsuit filed 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”) 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.
“Galveston County’s discriminatory map is just one example of a tsunami of efforts to diminish the voting power of Black and Brown voters in this redistricting cycle. Southern Coalition for Social Justice is proud to represent brave community activists in fighting back. We hope today’s decision sends a clear signal to governments across that South that they will be held to account for discriminatory voting plans, and will not succeed in silencing the voices of Black and Brown voters,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights with Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that the Galveston County Commissioners Court’s redistricting broke the law by discriminating against the county’s Black and Latino residents,” said Richard Mancino, Senior Counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. “This was an important fight for justice and we are proud to work alongside Texas Civil Rights Project and Southern Coalition for Social Justice to ensure our clients’ right to fair representation is upheld.”
This ruling underscores the importance of federal voting rights protections. Following the County’s 2011 redistricting process, when the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 preclearance system was still in effect, the Department of Justice rejected the County’s proposed maps due to discriminatory purposes. In 2021, without the need to undergo preclearance due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, the County renewed its discriminatory efforts in drawing the 2021 map. The Commissioners Court intentionally held most of its redistricting process behind closed doors and in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act, making it nearly impossible to take public input into account, and adopted a map that cracked apart Black and Latino community, which comprises nearly 45% of the County’s population, and gave minority voters zero representation at the County level.
“This was a worthwhile effort in which this community participated, it was worth everything we had to do to get to this point. I am so happy that I am speechless because of this win, which wasn’t possible without the support of our legal team. This win ensures that our community has a seat at the table,” said Edna Courville, plaintiff in the case.
“We live in such a great country, where the right to vote is fundamental. We must always be working to preserve the right to vote to protect our liberties, freedom, and community. This win today marks the end of a long fight for our community to be represented in our government – we all as Americans should be happy with the result of this case,” said Joe Compian, plaintiff in this case.
Galveston County’s Historic Precinct 3 has long been made up of people of color who have historic ties to the neighborhood. The redrawing of these maps is a historic win for residents who will once again take a seat at the table to make decisions at the local level.
SCSJ and TCRP will host a press briefing at 12:30 p.m. CST/1:30 p.m. EST with several plaintiffs to discuss the decision. To register, please click here.
To schedule an interview with one of the TCRP attorneys working on this case, please contact email@example.com.
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.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP provides leading-edge legal solutions on complex, business critical issues spanning markets and industries. Our approximately 1,200 attorneys across 13 offices worldwide deliver innovative, pragmatic and sophisticated legal services across approximately 45 practice areas. Learn more at www.willkie.com.