Harris County DOE suit accuses officials of using incorrect boundaries in trustee elections

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Aug 9, 2012

HOUSTON - The Harris County Department of Education has filed suit against the county, County Clerk Stan Stanart and Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners over what it claims is "use of incorrect election boundaries when conducting primary elections for HCDE trustee positions 4 and 6."

The suit, filed July 20 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas, alleges the defendants used boundaries which were adopted in 2001 during this year's primary elections for the two open seats on the plaintiff's board of trustees. The plaintiff states that the county and its officials should have used those brought forth by the 2010 census and a 2011 order from U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore.

Primary contests for HCDE Trustee Positions 3, 4 and 6 were held on May 29.

According to the original petition, the court-ordered precinct boundaries were used for the county commissioner elections, but the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector failed to update the boundaries for the HCDE trustee precinct-based elections for positions 4 and 6.

"While the defendants used the court-ordered interim boundaries when holding primary elections for county commissioner seats, it is undisputed that the defendants failed to use the interim boundaries when conducting HCDE's primary election and instead used the 2001 boundaries that Judge Gilmore previously declared unconstitutional," the suit says.

Kay Smith defeated Ray Garcia in the Republican primary for the position 4 trustee spot while Democrat Sylvia Mintz faced no opposition.

In the position 6 GOP primary, JuLuette Bartlett-Pack ran unopposed while the Democratic primary will have a run off between Jarvis Johnson and Erica Lee on July 31.

The suit alleges mail-in ballots for the run off race using the "unconstitutional" commissioner precinct boundary lines were sent out, stating the county "did not obtain preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for the court-ordered interim commissioner precinct boundary lines for the July 31, 2012 run-off election."

HCDE seeks a declaratory judgment voiding the May 29 primary election for trustee positions 4 and 6 and the upcoming July 31 Democratic run-off election for trustee position 6 based on the May 29 race.

Attorney Sarah Weber Langlois with Rogers, Morris & Grover in Houston is representing the plaintiff.

Case No. 4:12-cv-2190

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