The US Court docket of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed final week a decrease courtroom’s discovering that redistricting efforts by Texas’ Galveston County constituted racial gerrymandering, however raised issues over whether or not the authorized precedent underlying the choice complied with the legislative intent of the US Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Between 1991 and 2021, Galveston County had 4 voting districts, certainly one of which had majority-minority standing provided that its mixed Black and Hispanic populations comprised greater than half of the district’s residents (58% as of 2020). This standing afforded the district’s voters particular legal protections underneath Section 2 of the VRA.
A revised districting plan applied in 2021 by the Galveston County Commissioners Court docket dropped the majority-minority district from the map.
Alleging the redistricting effort had diluted the Black and Hispanic voters’ rights underneath the VRA, a gaggle of petitioners sued the county.
The US District Court docket for the Southern District of Texas final month dominated in favor of the petitioners, discovering that the redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act by denying Black and Hispanic voters the chance to equally take part within the political course of. The county then appealed.
At concern is whether or not the district certified for particular protected standing underneath the VRA provided that neither the Black nor Hispanic populations had been giant sufficient on their very own to qualify for majority-minority safety — a reality agreed upon by each events to the lawsuit, in response to courtroom paperwork. The Fifth Circuit has argued that the dilution of a majority-minority district the place not one of the racial minorities on their very own contains 51 p.c of the voting inhabitants doesn’t qualify as gerrymandering.
On enchantment, Fifth Circuit acknowledged present precedent within the circuit permitting minority teams to be aggregated for majority-minority districting functions, thus discovering that the decrease courtroom had correctly utilized the regulation. However the circuit courtroom additionally discovered that the precedent was inconsistent with the textual content of the VRA. Accordingly, the courtroom known as for a rehearing en banc to rethink the validity of minority-coalition claims.
The circuit courtroom requested a ballot on whether or not the case needs to be reheard en banc.
NB: An earlier model of this text, printed on Nov. 10, 2023, incorrectly said that the Fifth Circuit had agreed to rehear the gerrymandering case; in truth, the courtroom affirmed the gerrymandering choice primarily based on precedent, however ordered a ballot concerning a possible en banc listening to to find out whether or not the judicial precedent complies with Part 2 of the VRA.