[Gulf Coast Interfaith], which includes representatives of the NAACP and others, sent a letter Thursday to the city of Galveston’s attorney also questioning the wisdom of the city seeking to make a change by having two council seats elected city-wide, rather than coming from individual districts. Similar plans were shot down four different times when submitted to the Justice Department for pre-clearance. In the letter, the ad hoc group said the city is taking the opportunity provided by the court decision “to attack the voting rights of the minority community.”
The letter called the plan part of a “racist onslaught of efforts around America to turn the clock back,” and said that Galveston will be one of the places where there is a “pitched political battle to obtain and maintain equal rights.”
The proposed plan, the group said, would reduce the number of districts in which the majority of the residents were minority from three to two.
But the Galveston council, which has hired an attorney to study the possibility of resurrecting this redistricting plan, believes an at-large councilman will take a broader, rather than parochial, view of the city’s needs.
And if that means eliminating a minority opportunity district or two and making it harder for minorities to get elected in the future, well, that’s just the way it goes. Don’t expect this to be the end, either. There’s a reason why cities like Farmers Branch – and Houston, thirty-some years ago – were ordered to implement single-member districts in place of their all-at-large systems. There’s nothing wrong a priori with a hybrid district/at large approach, but given the previous rejections by the Justice Department and the sneaky way these jurisdictions are going about it now, they don’t get any benefit of the doubt.