Harris County, Texas – On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, two Harris County commissioners joined three local voters to file a voting rights lawsuit against Harris County and the Harris County Judge over redistricting maps that they claim would rearrange the precincts undemocratically and for political gain.
Republican commissioners Jack Cagle of Precinct 4 and Tom Ramsey of Precinct 3 claim that the Democrat-drawn districts are an act of partisan gerrymandering intended to nullify one of the two Republican-held seats on the five-seat Commissioners Court to establish a supermajority of 4-1 for the Democrats.
Commissioner Cagle put out a press release the same day in which he said, “Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom S. Ramsey and I joined a group of Harris County voters today to file a state lawsuit challenging Harris County’s recent radical, unconstitutional redistricting of more than 1.1 million county residents.”
Their claim of voting rights infringement is rooted in a Harris County statute that the odd-numbered precincts hold elections the same year as general elections, with the next one being in 2024, while the even-numbered precincts hold elections the same year as midterm elections, with the next one being in 2022.
The only defendants on the suit are Harris County and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, though attorneys for the plaintiffs indicated that they view Commissioners Rodney Ellis of Precinct 1 and Adrian Garcia of Precinct 2 to be just as guilty of infringing on voters’ rights as the listed defendants. The plaintiffs’ attorneys also stated intentions to draw new redistricting maps as a counteroffer.
Cagle and Ramsey’s grievance is that the redistricting map moves precinct boundaries in such a way that huge amounts of people who live in the precincts holding elections next year will be placed into precincts not holding elections until 2024, forcing them to skip an election cycle they may have planned on voting in.
Additionally, Cagle and Ramsey are drawing attention to the way the new map would essentially switch their precincts and how the new Precinct 4 would have a demographic makeup that might view Cagle less favorably than his current precinct, hurting his chances for reelection.
Hidalgo responded to her colleagues’ claims about her intentions for redistricting by saying that the new map is meant to restore balance that was lost when Republicans redrew the precinct lines in 2011.
An attorney for the plaintiffs, Andy Taylor, said of the redistricting plan, “The Democrats on the Commissioners Court saw an opportunity, not to simply and roughly have all of the districts be the same size, but to use this mandate to redistrict as a mandate to run up the political score because they want to go from a 3-2 to 4-1 Democratic majority on the court,”
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee commented saying, “Harris County ran a transparent and thorough redistricting process. We’re confident the map Commissioners Court adopted complies with both federal and Texas laws.”