Harris County Commissioners R. Jack Cagle of Precinct 4 and Tom Ramsey of Precinct 3 have joined three Harris County residents in a lawsuit to nullify the recent redistricting plan adopted in a 3-2 …
Harris County Commissioners R. Jack Cagle of Precinct 4 and Tom Ramsey of Precinct 3 have joined three Harris County residents in a lawsuit to nullify the recent redistricting plan adopted in a 3-2 partisan vote on Oct. 28.
“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,” Cagle announced via a Nov. 16 press release.
The lawsuit alleges that the rights of citizens to vote were taken from them unconstitutionally by Democrats – both Cagle and Ramsey are Republicans. The case accuses County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia of adopting a plan proposed by Ellis that Cagle and Ramsey feel will ensure a 4-1 partisan split favoring the Democratic party.
Ellis has defended his plan, saying it was brought about using priorities agreed upon by all five members of the court. These included maintaining communities of interest and balancing populations among the districts without regard to partisanship. Ellis had initially proposed a plan that would have created a horseshoe-like Precinct 4 that would have spanned from Katy, north to FM 529 and across to Baytown and then south again. However, that plan was highly critiqued by Ramsey as “corrupt” and unpractical. Ramsey said Ellis’s initial plan would have created an immense precinct for Cagle to manage with an equal budget to that of his counterparts on the court while giving him a proportionately greater amount of roadways, parks and other county assets to maintain.
“I think the process – at this point – is corrupt. Corrupt in the sense that there’s a map that’s been generated, referred to as Commissioner Ellis’s Map (One), a week ago,” said Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey during an Oct. 21 special meeting of the commissioners court. “Clearly – clearly – it is obvious to everyone that’s the map preferred by the majority of the court.”
For their part, the Democrats stated that the new map – generally referred to as Ellis Three – corrects past gerrymandering after the 2000 and 2010 censuses under majority-Republican administrations for Harris County.
Cagle, Ramsey and fellow complainants Ranya Khanoyan, Alan Vera and David Lugo are asserting that the redistricting is not only a radical change from past precinct boundaries but also will prevent more than 1.1 million voters from casting ballots in the upcoming 2022 county commissioners primary and general elections.
According to court documents the plaintiffs are claiming that voters were moved from even-numbered to odd-numbered precincts which prevents them from casting ballots in elections they otherwise would have.
Cagle’s current term will expire in December of next year while Ramsey will continue to represent Precinct 3 on the court through the end of 2024.
The plaintiffs are represented by redistricting attorneys Andy Taylor, Chris Gover and Joe Slovacek.
Partisanship was mentioned during the overall debate with Hidalgo capping her arguments in favor of Ellis’s third plan, which was eventually adopted.
“I think, despite your concerns, that ‘Ellis Three’ is the better map, because I am concerned that your party is on a race to the bottom to literally not be able to pay for lifesaving services when you’re rejecting a tax cut – Cut! – so that you can defund the hospital district by $17 million in the middle of a pandemic,” Hidalgo said shortly before the vote along party lines with finalized the decision to adopt Ellis Three.
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