Galveston Cuts Constable Districts in Half After Voting Rights Act Ruling

Well, that didn't take long. In a move that had previously been struck down by the federal government as unconstitutional and discriminatory, Galveston County moved this week to eliminate four of the eight county constable districts according to a report from the Houston Chronicle (requires subscription). Republicans own four of the five Commissioners Court seats and voted for the change. The lone vote against was the one Democrat, Stephen Holmes, who claimed he didn't even hear about the vote until it was posted on Friday.

A recent decision by the Supreme Court that legal experts say significantly weakens the Voting Rights Act appears to have emboldened Galveston County Commissioners to make the move, one that they attempted last year but that was blocked by a U.S. District Court.

The eight districts that had existed before Tuesday's vote were put in place after a discrimination lawsuit 20 years ago. The change now was hailed by supporters as providing greater efficiency and decreasing the cost to taxpayers. Opponents claimed that it was a return to an approach that had been ruled as discriminatory by the U.S. Courts.

It does appear as if Republican members of Commissioners Court were primed to pounce on the opportunity afforded them by the Supreme Court's recent decision to strip certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

But by cutting the number of districts, Galveston opens itself up to civil lawsuits and may prompt the federal government to place the county on pre-clearance, meaning it would have to get approval for any such changes in the future.

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While it's being hailed as cost-saving by supporters, there have apparently been no studies as to how much will be saved.   Not to mention the money it will cost Galveston Co. to defend the actions of its commissioners who announced the special meeting the Friday before the vote, as if it were an emergency item. 

wcvemail topcommenter

@matx Point taken, but that's a sign of typically arbitrary, small-jurisdiction politics as usual, and has nothing to do with minority voting rights.

wcvemail topcommenter

I don't get it at all. Why does decreasing the number of constable offices infringe on minority voting rights? If the constables themselves are redundant to other law enforcement (as is the case in many modern jurisdictions), then doesn't GalCo have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens to cut offices and therefore cut expensese? What do GalCo constables do all day, anyway? Honestly, I don't understand.

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