Pasadena, Texas – The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in this ruling invalidated the city’s move from an eight-member district redistricting map to a mixed map of six single member districts and two at-large seats for electing its city council. The court’s finding of minority vote dilution (of Hispanic voters) under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act includes an order to subject the city to preclearance requirements, which would mean election officials must clear any future redistricting changes to the Justice Department for approval. Read the initial case filing by plaintiffs here.
There were several specific facts in this case that convinced the court that intentional discrimination was at work during the passage of this new election system, including the indisputable fact that Latino voters would have certainly elected a Latino preferred candidate majority of City Council members for the first time in Pasadena’s history. The factors that led the court to its conclusion are:
- The proposal for a mixed map came soon after the key Shelby decision by the Supreme Court, releasing all preclearance obligations on the city;
- A newly instituted 3-minute debate rule to limit time for opponents to the plan;
- Forcible removal of at least one council member for violating the debate rule; and
- the mayor’s decision to bring a firearm to council meetings at which the plan was to be debated.
Read the New York Times article detailing the controversy. Read a summary of the court’s decision at Election Law Blog. Read the Court’s Opinion.