U.S. 5th Circuit orders Galveston County to redraw its political map

The clarification from Chief Circuit Judge Priscilla Richman comes two days after the appeals court agreed to rehear Petteway v. Galveston County next May.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Michael Hagerty
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

A federal appeals court said Galveston County must redraw its political map to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The move comes just two days after the court set a May date to hear the county's appeal of the district court's ruling in Petteway v. Galveston County.

Chief Circuit Judge Priscilla Richman told attorneys for both sides that the administrative stay on the order to redraw the map ended the moment the full U.S. 5th Circuit bench agreed to rehear the case.

"If the county is intending on seeking further stays from either the 5th Circuit or the Supreme Court, I would think they would need to do that quickly, because the candidate filing deadline is December 11. The map that they want to see govern it is enjoined and not in effect. So, the onus is on them to try to undo that," said attorney Mark Gaber of the Campaign Legal Center, who represents the plaintiffs.

The Republican majority on Galveston County's commissioners court adopted a new political map in 2021 that broke up its Commissioner Precinct 3, the one precinct in which Black and Latino voters made up a majority. Precinct 3 Commissioner Stephen Holmes, who is Black and a Democrat, is up for reelection next year.

A federal district court ruled that violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans racial gerrymandering. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit agreed with the district judge's ruling, but it imposed the administrative stay, pending a decision on whether the full circuit court bench would rehear the case.

A spokesman for Galveston County Judge Mark Henry referred to an earlier statement by Henry, praising the decision of the full 5th Circuit to rehear the case, but the spokesman would not comment on the decision to lift the stay.