Landmark Ruling: Texas County’s Redistricting Plan Violates Voting Rights Act

Landmark Ruling: Texas County’s Redistricting Plan Violates Voting Rights Act

Landmark Ruling: Galveston County Redistricting Plan Deemed Unlawful

In a significant legal development, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas has delivered a ruling stating that the redistricting plan utilized by the governing body of Galveston County, Texas, known as the Commissioners Court, violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The court found that this plan unjustly denies Black and Latino voters the equal opportunity to engage in the political process and select their preferred candidate.

The Justice Department’s Vigorous Enforcement

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland emphasized the importance of this decision, stating, “This decision demonstrates that the Justice Department is vigorously enforcing the Voting Rights Act in communities across the country.”

He further noted that the Galveston County Commissioners Court’s redistricting plan had deprived Black and Latino voters of an equitable chance to participate in the political process and exercise their voting rights.

A Clear Message to All Jurisdictions

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division underscored the broader implications of this ruling, stating, “This ruling should send a clear message that all jurisdictions, whether at the state or local level, must comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

highlighted the vital role the Act plays in protecting the political participation of communities of color and ensuring their ability to elect candidates of choice.

Upholding Fundamental Rights

U.S. Attorney Alamdar Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas emphasized the fundamental nature of the right to vote in our democracy.

He noted that the court’s decision serves to safeguard the voting rights of Black and Latino voters in Galveston County, providing them with an equal opportunity to have a voice in the Galveston County Commissioners’ Court in accordance with federal law.

A Critical Redistricting Issue

The court’s ruling reveals that the county’s redistricting plan not only prevents Black and Latino voters from electing their preferred candidates in any district but also underscores the elimination of a district where such an opportunity had existed for decades.

This move was described by the court as “mean-spirited” and “egregious,” given the lack of a compelling reason for the significant changes to the district’s structure.

The court’s conclusion was that this elimination extinguished the voice of Black and Latino communities in the commissioners court, despite constituting 38% of the county’s population.

Immediate Action Required

In light of the approaching candidate qualifying period for Galveston County’s 2024 elections, the county has been granted until October 20 to enact a redistricting plan that includes at least one district providing Black and Latino voters with an equal opportunity to elect their chosen candidates.

In the event the county opts not to submit a revised plan, the court has mandated the implementation of a redistricting plan presented by the United States on or before November 1.

A Lengthy Legal Process

This ruling follows a bench trial conducted earlier this year, spanning from August 7 through 18. The redistricting plan at the heart of this case was adopted by the county on November 12, 2021, following the release of 2020 Census data.

The Justice Department initiated the legal proceedings against Galveston County in March 2022.

Reporting Discriminatory Practices

The Justice Department encourages individuals to report complaints about discriminatory practices through its internet reporting portal at civilrights.justice.gov or by calling (800) 253-3931.

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