John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Aug. 30, 2012, 1:38pm

HOUSTON - A group of Hispanic Pasadena residents have filed a lawsuit alleging the Pasadena Independent School District and its board of trustees are committing acts that aim to disenfranchise voters.

According to a lawsuit filed Aug. 27 in Houston federal court, PISD uses an at-large voting system which "violates the plaintiffs' civil rights."

The school district considered the idea of switching over to single-member districts for nearly 30 years, but did not go through with it, the suit states.

PISD, which is among the 30 largest districts in Texas, educates a total of 52,919 students, with 82 per cent of the population being Hispanic.

The complainants say political cohesiveness in their community will enable voters to elect representatives of their choice, however, the defendant's election system "also disadvantages Hispanic candidates."

They assert "it is more difficult for Hispanic voters to solicit Anglo voters than it is for Anglo candidates to do so" and "it is more difficult for Hispanic candidates to raise the campaign funds necessary to compete in a geographically large district such as PISD."

Efforts to have the school district resolve "the inequities" of the current voting system were unsuccessful as the defendant "refused to consider any change to the present election scheme."

"The present electoral scheme is without any legitimate or compelling governmental interest and it arbitrarily and capriciously cancels, dilutes, and minimizes the force and the voting strength of the Hispanic population in PISD," the original petition says.

A permanent injunction "prohibiting the calling, holding, supervising, or certifying of any future school board elections under the present at-large scheme" and a jury trial are sought.

Attorney Rick Molina with the Molina Law Firm in Houston is representing the plaintiffs.

Case No. 4:12-cv-2579

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