October 13, 2023

On October 13, Judge Jeffrey V. Brown of the Southern District of Texas held that a 2021 redistricted Galveston County commissioners court map illegally diluted the voting power of the county’s Black and Latino voters when Precinct 3, the county’s historic and sole majority-minority commissioners precinct, “was summarily carved up and wiped off the map.” The Court found that Galveston County’s map violated the Voting Rights Act and as a result of the decision, the county has been ordered to redraw the 2021 map by October 20, 2023 given upcoming elections. 
In his decision, Judge Brown described the violation as “stark and jarring” noting that the “commissioners court transformed Precinct 3 from the precinct with the highest percentage of Black and Latino residents to that with the lowest percentage,” and that the circumstances and effect of the enacted plan were “egregious.” 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.
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, making it nearly impossible to take public input into account, and adopted a map that cracked apart Black and Latino community, which comprises nearly 40% of the County’s population, and gave minority voters zero representation at the County level. 

The lawsuit was filed in 2022 by Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, and Spencer & Associates, PLLC  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), as well as three individual civil rights leaders Edna Courville, Joe A. Compian, and Leon Phillips. The lawsuit was consolidated with similar suits by the U.S. Department of Justice and by local leaders Terry Petteway, Penny Pope, and Derreck Rose.
The Willkie team includes senior counsel Richard Mancino, associates Diana C. Vall-llobera, Michelle Polizzano, Molly Zhu, Andrew Silberstein, and Kathryn Garrett.

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