On 12/23/21, a group of petitioners trying to stop implementation of the Ellis-3 redistricting plan for Harris County took their case to the Texas Supreme Court.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, Precinct 3 commissioner Tom Ramsey and their supporters filed their original lawsuit in District Court last November. They claimed the Ellis-3 redistricting plan was unconstitutional. They say it disenfranchised 1.1 million people of their right to vote for the commissioner of their choice in next year’s county election.
District Court Judge Brittanye Morris denied the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order on November 29. Judge Dedra Davis dismissed the entire case on Wednesday, December 22. Neither explained why.
Goal of Petition for Writ of Mandamus
Then on Thursday, December 23, 2021, Cagle, Ramsey and their supporters filed an emergency petition for a “writ of mandamus” with the Texas Supreme Court.
The petition, if granted, would compel Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia “to cease implementation of the illegal and unconstitutional Ellis 3 Plan for the upcoming election cycle” and pay all costs of the suit.
A writ of mandamus is literally a judicial command. It orders an official to perform a statutory duty.
Elements of Petition
The 47-page petition petition for a writ of mandamus to the Texas Supreme Court begins by recapping the basis for the original lawsuit.
- The 2020 census revealed population changes among districts that required redistricting.
- It was possible to comply with the “one man, one vote” rule by transferring 4% of the county’s population.
- But Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia chose a plan that moved 48% and overstepped their authority.
- That plan will deprive 1.1 million people of their right to vote for commissioner in the next election and likely tip the result from Republican to Democrat in one precinct, creating a 4-1 supermajority for Democrats.
The petition then recites more facts in the case, elements of the redistricting plan, legal precedents, issues and arguments.
The petition basically restates elements of the original District Court petition. However, for the Texas Supreme Court, it also lists precedents for writs of mandamus. Those were not an element of the original case.
Writs of mandamus compel lower court judges or government officials to perform the duties of their job. In this case, the petition was targeted at three local officials – Hidalgo, Ellis and Garcia.
Request to Expedite Petition
The petitioners also filed a 4-page request to expedite the case, citing the nearness of the next election.
The urgency explains why Cagle, Ramsey and their supporters skipped the normal intermediate step of filing an appeal. Because of the need to print ballots early in the year, time was simply not available. A writ of mandamus represents the only legal remedy they have available at this point.
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Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/24/2021
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