Tuesday, February 13, 2018

David Tyson's Complaint

Former Richardson ISD school board trustee David Tyson, Jr., has sued the RISD, alleging its at-large election system is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Thanks to the reader who forwarded to me David Tyson, Jr.'s legal complaint against the Richardson ISD, I now have a better understanding of Tyson's case. It also affects my thinking about whether single member districts or cumulative voting is a better and/or more likely change to address Tyson's complaint.

The data that is new (new to me, that is) is that, according to Tyson, African-Americans comprise 17.9% of RISD's citizen voting age population (CVAP), Latinos comprise 11.2%, and Asians comprise 6.6%. Tyson says that African-American CVAP is concentrated in Hamilton Park (nothing new to me). Depending on just how concentrated that CVAP is, I now believe there is a good chance that a majority African-American district could be drawn in RISD, maybe even two districts. The fact that Latinos comprise only 11.2% of RISD's CVAP suggests to me that it will be more difficult to draw a majority Latino district (majority CVAP that is; majority total population is another matter). But if you combine the African-American and Latino populations (Hamilton Park and Spring Valley), I believe there's a good chance that two majority-minority single-member districts could be drawn in RISD.

Tyson's data is more supportive of single-member-districts than I expected. On the other hand, it could be telling that Tyson made no attempt to back up his claim with any example map of what such districts might look like, if for no other reason than to prove the feasibility of doing it. As I've said before, more research is needed. Much more, I expect, before the court is ready to rule on this case.

Something else that's new to me (though not to voting rights lawyers, I'm sure) is a question I hadn't considered before. Do single-member-district schemes need to consist of equal-sized districts with respect to total population or to CVAP or to some combination? I've always been under the impression it's total population that needs to be balanced, but ignoring CVAP would open redistricting up to new imbalances that I haven't considered before. Related, how much does it matter that RISD's overall CVAP demographics differ from school enrollment demographics? A lot of Tyson's complaint focuses on school enrollment, not total population.

Tyson doesn't even mention the possibility of a cumulative voting system satisfying his complaint. I don't know whether that's because he thinks his case for single member districts is so strong he doesn't need to bring it up, or whether he's saving it as a compromise he'd accept in case the court doesn't signal that his case is going well for him. I have no way of guessing his legal strategy in this regard.

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