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Lawsuit claims Lewisville ISD election system violates Voting Rights Act

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A lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday alleges that the Lewisville ISD election system violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “because it denies fair representation to voters of color.”

Brewer Storefront filed the lawsuit on behalf of plaintiff Frank Vaughan against the district and its trustees, according to a news release from the law office. Brewer Storefront community-service legal affiliate of the national litigation firm of Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors.

Liz Haas, spokeswoman for LISD, said Tuesday afternoon that the district has not been served with the lawsuit and is unable to comment.

Filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, the lawsuit claims that the school district’s at-large voting system denies Hispanic, African American and Asian voters a fair opportunity to elect school board representatives of their choice. It alleges that, based on the district’s demographics, one would expect that a Latino, African American or Asian school board member could be elected. However, all seven school board members are white, and LISD’s eight-member administrative “Leadership Team,” including the superintendent, also has no people of color serving on it.

“Our client believes the voting scheme utilized by Lewisville ISD unfairly denies people of color a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choosing – trustees that represent their interests, schools and communities,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer Storefront and lead counsel for plaintiff Frank Vaughan. “We believe the school board should adopt a more representative electoral process to serve this multiracial and ethnically diverse school district.”

LISD is an increasingly diverse school district. As of the 2017-2018 school year, the student population was 41.3 percent white, 29.6 percent Hispanic, 14.3 percent Asian, and 10.7 percent African American, according to Brewer Storefront.

Under the current electoral system, school board members are elected at large. Candidates run for specific places but do not represent a specific geographic area. The lawsuit claims the at-large system allows white voters to vote as a bloc and deny political opportunity to non-white voters.

The lawsuit refers to LISD’s at-large election system and the importance of school board trustees and states that, “However, when the electoral process from which those officials are chosen ‘stacks the deck’ against people of color – effectively denying non-white voters a meaningful voice – such bodies cease to be ‘representative.’”

The lawsuit alleges that the numbers of Hispanic, African American and Asian voters are sufficiently large and geographically compact such that at least one single-member electoral district could be created in which voters of color are a majority. The lawsuit alleges that an achievement gap exists between the lowest performing elementary schools in the district that are majority minority in enrollment and higher achieving schools situated in the neighborhoods in which the all-white members of the LISD board of trustees reside.

The lawsuit also claims that none of the seven trustees reside within the attendance boundary for two of LISD’s five high schools – Lewisville High School and The Colony High School, which serve the predominantly minority and lower income portions of the school district.

Vaughan, the plaintiff, is a human resources executive. He is active in the community and recently served as Vice Chair of the City of Lewisville Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee. His son is a Lewisville High School graduate and his late wife worked as a speech therapist for LISD. He claims that, without representation of minorities, the school district is failing to meet the needs of the entire community.

The Storefront has successfully challenged violations of the Voting Rights Act on behalf of other communities of interest in previous actions. It successfully resolved Voting Rights Act cases with the Richardson Independent School District in January, the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in 2015, and the Grand Prairie Independent School District in 2014. All districts now utilize remodeled voting systems. The Storefront also secured trial victories in Voting Rights Act cases against the Irving Independent School District in 2014, the City of Farmers Branch in 2012, and the City of Irving in 2009. Those lawsuits paved the way for the formation of new voting systems and the election of minority candidates.

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About The Author

Mark Smith

Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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8 Comments

  1. Bob Weir
    Bob Weir

    The fact that some minority group members ran and lost doesn’t mean they were discriminated against because of their minority status. I’m not a minority, yet, I’ve run for office twice and lost. Does everything always have to be about race? I firmly believe that we live in an age (and in a community) that is a lot more educated and enlightened about race than we get credit for. Personally, I detest bigotry in any form! I’d be happy to interview anyone who can supply some facts, not innuendo, regarding race discrimination in this area. You can contact Max Miller, publisher of this newspaper, and ask him how to contact me for a video interview.

    1. Smith

      Bob please re-read the response provided by Katy again. There is no mention of discrimination in any paragraph. Also, you asked the question regarding why minority have not ran in the past and now the present with open seats up for grabs. We simply answered your question from a minority perspective, but never said “discrimination or bigotry “ in any of our response. BTW there is no need for video interview since these reply’s are not being read in its entirety..

      1. Bob Weir
        Bob Weir

        Katy Rivera’s post below indicates “there is a clear reason why minority’s (sic) don’t run. ……There is a lack of support for minority’s (sic) in any and everyone (sic) position with the ISD.” It goes on with additional claims. Incidentally, the entire article is about a lawsuit claiming discrimination, so, why pretend it’s not being alleged? My offer of an interview remains. Yet, it seems no one wants to go public with actual facts to prove the allegations.

  2. Katy Rivera

    Bob,

    You hit the nail on the head, why haven’t minority’s ran for office. Clearly, there is a reason why minority’s don’t run. I will go ahead give you a little info on why. There is lack of support for minority’s in any and everyone position within the ISD. Should we also ask why minority’s don’t come and teach in the ISD as well? Also, minority’s have run and you missed it, that’s also a problem Bob.

    If the ISD wanted to be diverse it would work towards that. Before you comment on a race issue why don’t you talk to minority’s that have tried to run. Educate yourself before you dive in completely ignorant of the issues minority’s face.

    If it was so easy to run in a election people would do it, Bob. No one wants to put their money into a pointless race.

  3. Bob Weir
    Bob Weir

    “Additionally, the board officially called for an election on May 4 to fill three of its seats, as required by state law. Trustees serve in staggered three-year terms. Board president Angie Cox, secretary Katherine Sells and Jenny Proznik will be up for re-election this year. The deadline to file to run is 5 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 15, and so far, all three are running unopposed.”

    How can minorities be elected if they don’t run for office?

  4. Bob Weir
    Bob Weir

    There are 3 people running for reelection to the LISD Board right now, and they have no opponents. Why haven’t minority group members filed to run?

    1. Smith

      Bob based on prior elections they feel they don’t have a chance.. One minority ran two times 2016 and 2017 . Please look at the past elections..

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