This article has been updated to include a statement made by Arturo G. Michel, city of Houston attorney, and a statement from At-large Council Member Mike Knox.

The League of United Latin American Citizens filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 5 against the city of Houston over the city's use of at-large representatives as a part of its City Council structure.

The case—filed with the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Texas, Houston Division—calls for an end to at-large council positions, alleging that their use results in unequal representation for Latino Houstonians that infringes on their civil rights, according to a LULAC press release.

In addition to its five at-large members, the city has 11 council members who represent specific districts within the city. The at-large representatives are meant to serve as members of City Hall for all of the city of Houston, regardless of district lines.

Redistricting occurs every decade with census data and the most recent initiatives passed over the summer. The concern for LULAC is the dilution of the Latino vote, especially in Hispanic opportunity districts— Districts H, District J and District I—where voters have the power to elect Hispanic representation.

Doming Garcia, LULAC’s national president, along with other members of the LULAC, stood before Houston City Hall on Dec. 5 and made the announcement.

"Latinos make up 44.5% of the city's population, yet we have only one Latino out of 16 positions on a City Council that controls a $5.7 billion annual budget,” Garcia said. “Our battle is against an outdated process that denies Latino and other Houston taxpayers and their families their lawful participation in deciding vital services, resources, jobs and investments this city makes.”

Council Member Robert Gallegos, who represents District I on the council, is the only Latino representative.

This action by the LULAC comes after its lawsuit made against Houston earlier this summer over Voting Rights Act violations.

The new lawsuit calls for the discontinuation of at-large elections for five members of the council who run citywide—Mike Knox, David Robinson, Michael Kubosh, Letitia Plummer and Sallie Alcorn. In the lawsuit, LULAC asks the court to grant injunctive relief to the city's Latino residents.

Sergio Lira, Houston LULAC's redistricting chair, spoke on the issue alongside Garcia.

"We need more equitable representation at a time when Latinos are building Houston with our labor, and our businesses are pumping in millions of tax dollars,” Lira said. “Making this change is not a favor but a right we have earned. The LULAC is here to claim that right and trusts that the federal court will agree."

Community Impact has reached out to the city of Houston and the city's five at-large council members for comment.

At-large Council Member Letitia Plummer issued the following statement to Community Impact:

“I understand representation is important, but what is equally important is electing people who have integrity and character, and are willing to fight for people. Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S., and I am proud, as a child of an immigrant, that I have consistently fought for all communities. My record on apartment inspection reform, food insecurities and police reform speaks for itself. In addition, many constituents want to keep at-large members who they can reach out to for issues in addition to their district members.”

At 4:32 p.m. on Dec. 5, the city of Houston responded with a comment made by city attorney Arturo G. Michel:

"The City believes its system of 11 single-member districts with 5 at-large districts has benefitted its residents. At-large Council Members are engaged in and advocate for district issues. The City held numerous hearings regarding redistricting and solicited alternative plans. Its goal included providing an equal opportunity for all voters to elect candidates of their choice, preserve communities of interest, and avoid diluting the voting strength of any group of voters.The City expects that evidence presented in this lawsuit will support its adopted plan which is consistent with the City Charter."

At-large Council Member Mike Knox spoke with Community Impact on Dec. 6, issuing the following statement:
"I think is designed to in inflict some racial divisiveness into the upcoming city election. And also it serves no useful purpose for the citizens of Houston. Secondarily, the premise that the at large council members can't be a Hispanic person can't be elected to an at-large position is just completely wrong."
Knox continued to say if people do not get along with their district council member and at-large representation is removed, then constituents are, essentially, limited.

"The premise is that we have to reserve certain seats on counsel for Hispanics," Knox said. "And that's just not the American way."

This story is ongoing.