Lawsuit on SBISD Elections
Was a lawsuit recently filed against the school district regarding the current system for electing school board members?
Yes, a former candidate (the “Plaintiff”) for the SBISD school board filed a lawsuit alleging that SBISD’s system of at-large elections violates the Federal Voting Rights Act.
What is the lawsuit seeking to achieve?
The Plaintiff seeks to force the District to change its at-large system of electing trustees to a single-member district system.
What is the difference between an at-large system and a single-member district system of electing trustees?
Under an at-large system, all eligible voters of the community vote for all trustees. An at-large system is similar to how Texans vote for candidates in the U.S. Senate where all voters elect both Senate positions.
Under a single-member district system, the district is divided into geographic subunits (i.e., single-member districts). Only voters who reside within a single-member district may vote for the candidates running for election for that single-member district. A single-member district is similar to how Texans vote for candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives where voters only vote for the person running for their congressional district, not other congressional districts in Texas.
How is the school district planning to respond to the lawsuit?
The SBISD school board is considering all legal options and will make the final decision regarding the district’s response to the lawsuit. The district will keep the community informed of developments regarding this lawsuit.
Has there been any change to the District’s current election system for members of the school board?
No. There has been no decision to change the District’s current system of at-large elections.
Has the school district’s legal counsel recommended a change to the District’s election system?
No. SBISD’s legal counsel, attorneys from Thompson & Horton LLP, have not recommended or advocated for a change to the current SBISD election system. After listening to community concerns about its current election system, the SBISD school board requested that Thompson & Horton attorneys make a presentation to help board members and the public understand the various options that school districts have in electing their trustees. The January 2020 presentation included data that showed that SBISD’s current system of at-large elections is similar to the majority of school board systems in Texas.
Who is Thompson & Horton LLP?
Thompson & Horton LLP has represented SBISD since 2005 and has assisted the school district in navigating a wide range of legal issues, such as school finance reform and complex litigation. Thompson & Horton attorney Lisa McBride is a recognized expert on the Federal Voting Rights Act with over 21 years of experience. She is not an advocate for any particular voting system. Chris Gilbert is a litigation partner with over 28 years of experience, who has represented Spring Branch ISD in at least eight lawsuits since 2009, as well as several complicated investigations by the Office of Civil Rights. Our experience with Ms. McBride, Mr. Gilbert, and their colleagues at the firm is that they provide factual information and legal analysis to help Trustees make informed decisions. Given the proven track record of the firm, the SBISD school board has full confidence in Thompson & Horton and their advice and guidance on this matter.
What are the next steps in the lawsuit?
The District’s deadline to file an answer (i.e., response) to the lawsuit is in August, 2021. There is a scheduling conference set for November 2021, at which time the parties anticipate the Court would enter deadlines governing the case.
Posted on July 19, 2021