State of Texas

Texas Galveston County Redistricting Challenge (Petteway)

Petteway v. Galveston County

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Galveston County voters challenging the 2021 enacted redistricting plan for the county’s Commissioners Court precincts. Following the release of 2020 census data, the four districts for the Commissioners Court were redrawn. The plaintiffs argue that the map drawers intentionally created a discriminatory redistricting plan in which all four precincts were predominantly white, thereby denying Black and Latino voters the ability to elect candidates of their choice in any district. The lawsuit alleges that this racially gerrymandered map, which “cracks Black and Latino” voters across the county’s four precincts, violates the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs also argue that the enacted map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by intentionally “denying Black and Hispanic voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice by diluting their voting strength.” The case was consolidated with two others challenging Galveston’s redistricting plan, with this case being designated as the lead where future filings can be found. A trial was held on Aug. 7, 2023. On Oct. 13, 2023, the court struck down the map for violating Section 2 of the VRA and ordered the county to enact a remedial map for the 2024 election. On Oct. 14, the defendants appealed the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Oct. 18, the 5th Circuit temporarily paused the lower court’s decision pending oral argument on appeal.

On Nov. 10, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, but requested that the case be reheard by the entire 5th Circuit. The lower court’s decision remains temporarily stayed pending a decision from the 5th Circuit whether to rehear the case en banc. On Nov. 16, 2023, the Petteway plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the 5th Circuit’s stay of the district court’s decision to ensure the implementation of new, fair districts prior to the 2024 election cycle.

On Nov. 28, 2023, the entire 5th Circuit agreed to rehear the case and vacated the prior three-judge panel decision affirming that the challenged districts violate Section 2. On Nov. 30, the 5th Circuit lifted its pause of the district court’s order. This means that the district court’s order requiring a redraw of Galveston County’s districts is back in effect. On Nov. 30, 2023, the district court ordered the implementation of new districts that comply with the VRA. On Dec. 7, the entire 5th Circuit voted to pause the district court’s order requiring the implementation of new districts. On Dec. 8, the plaintiffs once again went to the Supreme Court and asked it to lift the 5th Circuit’s renewed stay.

On Dec. 12, 2023, the Court denied the request in a 6-3 order, thereby leaving the illegal districts in place. In May 2024, the entire 5th Circuit will rehear the case. In doing so, it will reconsider the court’s precedent allowing for minority-coalition VRA claims, which allow minority groups to be considered together for the purposes of Section 2 vote dilution claims.

STATUS: The entire 5th Circuit will rehear the case en banc on May 14, 2024.

Case Documents (DISTRICT COURT)

Case Documents (5TH CIRCUIT)

Case Documents (U.S. Supreme Court)

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