Sunday, May 22, 2022

Lawsuit claims Lewisville ISD election system violates Voting Rights Act

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.

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

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