Galveston officials: Redistricting plan will harm minority voters

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Nov. 21, 2011, 5:47am

GALVESTON - A group of Galveston County officials have filed a lawsuit in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas to block a redistricting plan they claim will disenfranchise minority voters.

Galveston County Precinct No. 2 Constable Terry Petteway, Galveston County Precinct No. 3 Constable Derreck Rose, Galveston County Precinct No. 5 Constable Michael Montez, Galveston County Justices of the Peace Penny Pope and Sonny James and Galveston County Commissioners Patrick Doyle and Stephen Holmes are suing Galveston County and County Judge Mark Henry to prevent the plan from being implemented in upcoming elections.

Roosevelt Henderson, an African American Galveston County resident and registered voter, is also a plaintiff in the case.

According to the original petition submitted Nov. 14, the plan in question, which was adopted by the Galveston County Commissioners Court in August, eliminates the constable precincts and justice of the peace courts that were created by an order issued in 1992 by merging them into one single, larger constable and justice of the peace precinct.

The complainants argue "the proposed plan also reduces the percentage of African American and Latino voting age population in all of the newly proposed precincts."

"The plan would harm minority voters, including the plaintiffs, by reconfiguring the boundaries of most of the existing commissioner, constable and justice of the peace precincts in Galveston County," recent court documents say. "The injury to minority voters throughout the county as a result of the reconfiguration of the precincts is neither necessary or justified."

African and Hispanic Americans combine for 84,000 of the 290,000 that call Galveston County home as of 2010. Current census data shows both groups experienced a boost in population during the last decade.

The suit, which insists the plan is in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, says the plaintiffs "are entitled to a hearing to consider evidence for the construction of an interim plan as well as an order adopting such interim plan for use during this election."

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the litigation.

Case No. 3:11-cv-511

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