John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 27, 2013, 11:49am

GALVESTON - An electoral map recently adopted by Galveston County is "racially discriminatory" in nature, a federal lawsuit filed Aug. 26 says.

The suit, assigned to the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas, asserts the map cuts the number of justices of the peace districts from eight to four.

According to the original petition, the move in question disenfranchises Latino and African American registered voters.

Listed as plaintiffs in the case are two black justices of the peace, two black constables, a Hispanic constable and a black county resident.

It asserts the U.S. Supreme Court's late June decision to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made the controversial map a reality.

Prior to the elimination of Section 5, any election changes in the state of Texas required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"The drastic revisions of the boundaries of those newly drawn precincts will make it impossible for any minority officeholder or candidate to be elected in three of the four newly drawn precincts," the suit says.

Labeled a product of "a process that vastly deviated from the past Galveston County redistricting process," the map reportedly did not receive any public input prior to a special meeting Aug. 19.

"In light of the knowledge the county had from the previous litigation... and the information learned from the previous DOJ objection, the county's decision to move forward with this new map can be described as nothing less than intentionally discriminatory," the suit says.

The complainants further show "there was no opportunity for the submission of any alternate plans for justice of the peace districts that would have preserved minority opportunity districts and be supported by the residents of Galveston County."

Nearly a year ago, the county was sued in the same court on allegations it was going to implement a redistricting plan that would disenfranchise minority voters.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt ruled against the implementation of voting changes.

The present litigation seeks a declaratory judgment that the plan adopted Aug. 19 "dilutes the voting strength of minority voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965" as well as violates the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney Chad W. Dunn of Brazil & Dunn in Houston is representing the complainants.

Case No. 3:13-CV-308

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