Breaking News
More () »

Houston Hispanic activists threaten lawsuit against city for allegedly violating Voting Rights Act

LULAC representatives say the number of council member seats and current districts prevents proportional representation.

HOUSTON — Houston Hispanic activists are threatening to sue the City of Houston for allegedly violating the Voting Rights Act.

They claim the number of Houston city council member seats, as well as district lines, have prevented Hispanic candidates from being elected.

LULAC representatives said the same issue happened in San Antonio, and the city had to change, which resulted in more Hispanic council members — and proportional representation for the city’s population.

Members of Houston’s Hispanic community said that although their ethnicity makes up nearly half of the city’s population, that fact is not reflected in the faces of city council.

LULAC said that out of Houston’s 16 city council members, only one is Hispanic.

Activists said city leaders have been resistant to their requests to add more council seats or redistrict so that more Hispanics might be elected to represent their population.

They said they’ll soon be filing a lawsuit against the city claiming it is in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

“We are not getting a seat at the table, we’re getting the crumbs,” former LULAC district director Augustin Pinedo said. “Out of 16 council members, we only have one Hispanic, which is a travesty considering we’re 45% (of the population). In other words, we don’t get our slice of the pie.”

KHOU 11 political analyst Bob Stein said LULAC would have to show that given the opportunity, most Hispanics would elect a Hispanic candidate, most of the time.

LULAC would have to sue after this election, demonstrating that the plan that council had to approve for the 11-5 council members did not elect proportional representation for the Hispanic community,” Stein said.

Stein said ensuring proportional representation will not be an easy task.

“My guess is that in order to draw these districts, in order to get anywhere near the proportional representation of Hispanics, you might have to increase the council size by as many as five to upwards of 10 single-member districts,” Stein said.

Activists said greater representation in city government means more attention to the needs of their community.

“When they’re passing out the money, we should have representation there that says, ‘Hey, we need our streets to be paved, we need our parks cleaned, we need libraries, we need this here in our community,” attorney Baldomero Garza said.

City of Houston statement:

“The City of Houston is committed to offering a fair and equal opportunity to all voters to elect council members of their choice.

"The City will soon present a draft plan for public consideration. A lawsuit filed before public presentation of the plan and analysis of historical voting patterns by City of Houston voters as applied to the City’s draft plan and any other proposed plan is premature.

"The City welcomes input by LULAC and any other person or group as well as any analysis that supports such a person or group’s position and will give it careful consideration as Council itself reviews and considers modifications to the upcoming draft plan.”

Before You Leave, Check This Out