The San Marcos CISD board of trustees rejected changing the way voters in the district elect them to the board Dec. 13. The motion failed by a 3-4 vote with trustees Miguel Arredondo, Kathy Hanson and Mayra Mejia voting in favor.

Board members are currently elected by five single-member districts and two at-large districts. The proposed change would have dropped the at-large districts and created seven single-member districts instead. The community redistricting committee voted unanimously Dec. 9 to bring the seven single-member district proposition to the board, said Eduardo Rios, chair of the community redistricting committee in a presentation to the board. New redistricting maps were presented that meet the federal guidelines of population and ethnic deviation in each district for both the current configuration and seven single-member district maps. If the new voting configuration had been adopted, the board would have had to conduct public hearings prior to Jan. 6, the last day to adopt a new map before the May board elections, Rios said.

“We have a five-two configuration that is pretty straightforward and meets the requirement for the standard deviation. We have a base layout that is compliant [for a single-member district map],” Rios said, adding that they had one more meeting planned to iron out a few details and finalize that map.

“I don’t feel like we personally have the time to get the public input between now and Jan. 6,” at-large trustee Anne Halsey said. “Although I understand in theory why it makes it more equal to have a seven[-member voting scheme], part of it is also about encouraging more engagement with our voting. ... I haven’t heard what makes it more representational to give a voter one vote for a school board trustee versus three votes that each voter in the district currently has."

Rolando Rios, a lawyer based in San Antonio who provided legal advice for the redistricting committee, said many larger school districts in the state have moved away from at-large districts.

“At-large voting is a suspicious way of voting in the sense that it has the effect of diluting the voting strength of racial minorities. At one time ... San Antonio ISD, Dallas ISD, Houston ISD, Fort Worth ISD—virtually every school district in the state at-large voting,” Rolando Rios said. “The patterns show that where you have multicultural communities, and there's this phenomenon called polarized voting, certain groups vote a certain way, certain groups another way. At-large voting has an effect of diluting the voting strength of racial minorities. So every school district that I mentioned, across the whole state, went from at-large to single-member districts.”

Several trustees voiced interest in exploring the single-member district map at a later date, and Eduardo Rios said that the committee would meet again in January to finalize a map that the board can use going forward.