Frisco ISD lawsuit experts argue for, against district’s at-large system

Frisco ISD's board of trustees operates under an at-large system where each board member does not represent a specified area of the district. (Lindsey Juarez Monsivais/Community Impact Newspaper)
Frisco ISD's board of trustees operates under an at-large system where each board member does not represent a specified area of the district. (Lindsey Juarez Monsivais/Community Impact Newspaper)

Frisco ISD's board of trustees operates under an at-large system where each board member does not represent a specified area of the district. (Lindsey Juarez Monsivais/Community Impact Newspaper)

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This drawing created by one of the plaintiff's experts shows a proposed single-member district in which minorities make up the majority of the voting-age population. (Courtesy United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas)
The lawsuit claiming Frisco ISD’s at-large voting system prevents minority candidates from getting elected to the board of trustees continues as experts for both sides submit their findings through court filings.

The suit, filed in April, calls on FISD to move away from the at-large system—in which every board member represents the entire district rather than specified areas of the district—and into single member districts.

Brewer Storefront, the law firm that filed the suit against FISD, has sued other local school districts, including Richardson and Lewisville ISDs, in an effort to change their at large system. LISD’s suit is pending, and RISD has converted five of its seven board seats as a result of the lawsuit.

In the Frisco ISD suit, experts for plaintiff Suresh Kumar argue that minority candidates would have a greater chance of getting elected to the board if the district created single-member districts. FISD’s experts, on the other hand, argue that the plaintiff’s experts’ methodology was “defective” and inconsistent, according to court documents.

One of the plaintiff’s experts argued that a single-member district could be drawn within FISD where the majority of the total population and voting age population in that district would be more than 50% minority residents. The total population of that proposed district makes up one-seventh of FISD’s total population since the board of trustees has seven members.

The proposed district stretches from Panther Creek Parkway in Frisco to south of Hedgecoxe Road in Plano. The percentage of the minority population in the district is 51.2%, according to court documents.

One of FISD’s experts commented on the boundaries of the proposed single-member district, which creates a hook-like shape through the middle of the school district. “[T]he district twists to connect dispirit [sic] areas of Asian, black and Hispanic populations, rather than compactly circumscribing an actual naturally existing tri-ethnic residential community,” according to the expert.

Another expert for the plaintiff analyzed FISD’s past elections and concluded that “in every election, the candidate preferred by [w]hite voters won,” and white voters almost always voted against minority candidates. Gopal Ponangi, FISD’s first minority board member, won his election in May after white voters preferred him as a candidate, according to the expert’s findings.

FISD’s expert pointed to the fact that no evidence shows that minority voters in the district voted in a cohesive manner. If they did, minority voters would have shown unified support for the district’s minority candidates, the expert argued.

“Put another way, the lack of success for minority candidates ... cannot be attributed to the at-large election system if the various minority groups lack the political cohesion needed to succeed ...,” court documents say.

The experts are expected to testify if the case goes to trial, which is currently set for for next May against the district’s voting system.


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