WASHINGTON (Dec. 12, 2023) – The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a racially gerrymandered map to remain in place in Galveston County for the 2024 election, depriving Black and Latino voters of any chance to elect a candidate of their choice to the Galveston County Commissioners’ Court for the first time in decades.
The Court allowed a stay ordered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to remain in place in Petteway v. Galveston County. This means a map that was called a “textbook example” of racial gerrymandering will be used until the Fifth Circuit reviews the case en banc in May 2024.
“While we are disappointed with today’s ruling, we will not give up the fight for all voters in Galveston County to have their voices heard before their local county government, and will continue to pursue a lawful voting plan for future elections,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Voting Rights Counsel at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We remain privileged to represent local NAACP and LULAC branches and civil rights leaders in Galveston County in their fight for fair representation.”
“We are disappointed in today’s ruling, the residents of Galveston have fought against this map since it was proposed and they deserve to have a resolution,” said Joaquin Gonzalez (he/him), Senior Supervising Attorney for the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “This ruling emboldens more politicians to try the same tactics that the Galveston Commissioners used to create this blatantly discriminatory map. We will continue fighting for Galveston residents to have a fair shot to influence the decisions that shape their community.”
Although this ruling closes the door on relief for the 2024 election, the fight is not over. Plaintiffs will continue to prepare for the en banc review of the appeal from the Fifth Circuit in May 2024.
The lawsuit was 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”) 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.