A group of Hispanic activists have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Houston alleging the underrepresentation of minorities in city government. 

The lawsuit was filed Monday by the Houston chapter of LULAC, a national Hispanic activist group. The group alleges Houston City Council — which currently has one Hispanic councilmember — is violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by failing to properly represent the city’s minority population due to City Council’s five at-large positions.

“The current at-large method of electing five Houston city councilmembers…results in Latino and minority citizens having less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice,” the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit names the city of Houston and City Secretary Pat Daniel as defendants.

During a press conference outside of City Hall on Monday, LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said the city should do away with City Council’s at-large positions, which represent the city as a whole, and instead add more single-district council seats — a similar system seen in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. 

“We have filed a federal lawsuit to stop the rigging of the electoral system here in the city of Houston,” Garcia said. “America’s fourth largest city, and the city that has one of the largest Latino populations in the United States. But if you look at City Hall, it’s not reflected there.”

At the moment, voters elect 11 council members in district-wide elections, while the five at-large positions are elected through citywide elections. The lawsuit argues that the city’s at-large council members — Mike Knox, David Robinson, Michael Kubosh, Letitia Plummer, and Sallie Alcorn — are failing to adequality attend to the needs of the city’s ever-growing Hispanic population.

“[We] don’t see them in the community. We need action and we’re not getting it,” said Lucy Moreno, an East End resident. “Our neighborhoods are falling apart.”

As of July 2021, Hispanics and Latinos made up 44.5% of Houston’s total population, according to U.S. Census data

At Monday’s press conference, Garcia said the group had attempted to negotiate with city officials, but the conversations stalled out. LULAC Redistricting Committee Chair Sergio Lira added that the lawsuit was “defining moment” for the city. 

“This is a historical moment in the city of Houston. Because in the future, it is not for me. It is for those…that come after us,” Lira said. “Unfortunately, it takes a lawsuit for this to happen and to get their attention.”