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Lawsuit Filed to Halt Harris County Redistricting Plan

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Harris County Ellis 3 Plan. | Image from Office of the Harris County Attorney

Several Harris County voters are filing a lawsuit to block a redistricting plan for county commissioners.

These voters allege that the new maps unconstitutionally infringe on their and the rights of millions of their neighbors to vote in the 2022 county elections.

According to Erin Anderson of Texas Scorecard, the plaintiffs were three minority voters who would allegedly be disenfranchised by new district lines, alongside the county’s two Republican commissioners, Tom Ramsey and Jack Cagle.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis proposed the redistricting plan, which will increase the Democrats’ control over the county government to a 4-1 majority.

In October, the Commissioners Court voted in favor of the “Ellis 3 Plan.”

The lawsuit was filed in state court last week and argues that the new maps infringe on voters’ rights per the Texas Constitution through its movement from even-numbered to odd-numbered voting precincts.

The Texas Constitution sets up staggered elections for county commissioners. For example, County precincts 2 and 4 are slated to vote in 2022. Precincts 1 and 3 will vote in 2024.

Plaintiff Alan Vera, a member of the Harris County Republican Party, offered his thoughts on the matter: “The Ellis map moves over a million Harris County voters who did not get to vote for commissioner last year to a new precinct where they won’t get to vote for commissioner next year, either. Those voters will have gone six years without the right to vote for a county commissioner when they’re entitled to vote for commissioner every four years.”

“Democrats on Commissioners Court were so intent on padding their 3-2 majority that they callously and intentionally trampled on our clients’ sacred right—the right to elect their government officials and to participate in the electoral process,” declared plaintiffs’ attorney Andy Taylor.

Officials are mandated to redraw voting district lines every ten years and must incorporate new census data to guarantee “one person, one vote” proportionality.

County precincts must be drawn with a maximum of 10% population deviation.

In the past, courts have upheld redistricting plans on partisan lines. However, Taylor observed that districts cannot be redrawn “in a manner that violates the constitutional rights of voters in those precincts.”

The plaintiff’s legal counsel put forward an alternative map that complies with the constitution and only moves a fraction of the voters that the original plan does.

The lawsuit requests the court to temporarily stop the implementation of the Ellis 3 Plan and have the Harris County Commissioners Court start from scratch.

If commissioners do not establish an acceptable redistricting plan by the time the primaries commence, the county could turn to current maps or the plan the plaintiffs provided for the 2022 election cycle. The candidate filing deadline would be extended as seen fit.

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