Federal judge imposes new redistricting plan on Galveston County

Judge Jeffrey Brown ordered the county to adopt a “least changes” political map, which preserves the nonwhite voting majority in the County Commissioner Precinct 3.

Judge Jeffrey Brown ordered Galveston County leaders to implement Map 1, a "least changes" political map the county commissioners  court's Republican majority had rejected in 2021.
Judge Jeffrey Brown ordered Galveston County leaders to implement Map 1, a “least changes” political map the county commissioners court’s Republican majority had rejected in 2021.

Galveston County has a new political map. A federal judge imposed the new map to bring the county in line with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which bans racial gerrymandering.

Judge Jeffrey Brown wrote that Galveston County leaders had run out of time to come up with a new map themselves, as the filing period for the 2024 primary had already begun. He said the map county leaders adopted in 2021 was enjoined and could not be used, so he imposed an alternative map that county leaders had rejected.

"It clears the way for Black and Latino voters in Galveston County to elect their candidate of choice, whoever that might be," said attorney Valencia Richardson of the Campaign Legal Center, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit formally known as Petteway v. Galveston County.

In 2021, the Republican majority on the county's commissioners court adopted a map that broke up the county's sole precinct with a nonwhite voting majority. That precinct's commissioner, Stephen Holmes, is Black, a Democrat, and up for reelection next year.

The new map, formally known as Map 1, preserves the majority coalition of Black and Latino voters that existed in Galveston County's Commissioner Precinct 3 prior to the 2021 redistricting plan's implementation.

"So, map 1 is what's known as a ‘least changes' map, so it maintains most of Precinct 3 as it was but made some changes, of course, and most importantly, Precinct 3 remains a majority-minority district," Richardson said. "It was the inevitable result of the district court's very comprehensive finding of a Section 2 violation."

The move came just hours after the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay on Brown's order for the county to redraw its map. The 5th Circuit will rehear the case in May.

Spokespeople for Galveston County did not respond to a request for comment on Brown's latest ruling.