Thursday, November 7, 2019

RISD Election: How Did It Go?

On November 5, 2019, the Richardson ISD conducted its first-ever election with single-member districts. The new voting system was specifically designed in reaction to a voting rights lawsuit that complained that RISD's at-large voting system discriminated against the minority community. In this first election, three of the five single-member districts were up for election. In each of the next two years, another single-member district, plus an at-large district, will be up for election. At the end of three years, all of the new districts will have been elected under the new system. Now that the first election is behind us, let's ask how it worked.

The obvious answer is, as designed. The newly created District 4, a so-called "opportunity district" for minorities, drew four minority candidates. Regina Harris was elected. She will be the first African-American trustee since David Tyson stepped down and subsequently filed his lawsuit. So, yay us!

But there's a troubling detail in the election results — the vote totals. District 5, in which incumbent Karen Clardy ran unopposed, drew a total of 4,278 votes. District 2, in which incumbent Eron Linn defeated Vanessa Pacheco, drew a total of 4,056 votes. And District 4, with four candidates and no incumbent, drew a total of 1,247 votes.

That's topsy-turvy. An election in an opportunity district with four candidates drew less than a third the number of votes as the district with only one candidate. So, boo us!

What gives? One of the arguments in favor of single-member districts was that the at-large system discouraged minority candidates from running and minority voters from voting because they believed the system was rigged against them and they stood no chance at election. That argument doesn't work this time around. Four minority candidates stepped up to the plate, but voters didn't. Voters were assured that one of them would be elected. Still, turnout in this one district was embarrassingly low, even by the normal embarrassingly low standard of turnout in local elections in general. What's the argument this time?

So, even though the election resulted in a minority trustee, and a good one at that (full disclosure: I recommended voting for Regina Harris), the low turnout keeps me from feeling good about the election overall.

District 3, another so-called "opportunity district," will elect a new trustee in May, 2020. Let's hope the voters appreciate the opportunity and turn out in bigger numbers than their neighbors in District 4 did this year.


Scotty said...

When anything is new, it takes time...and it takes a push on everyone's part to introduce the changes. Not everyone listens to the radio, reads a paper or even watches the same TV. Many people not only do not know what is going on locally OR nationally...but many do not care. It's something that eats at me because I do care.
However, I remember my first venture into voting...and I regret my choices, especially for President. Nevertheless, I did learn from it, especially as a journalism teacher who taught all about Watergate for 25 years.
Some of us are slow learners, but all of us can be encouraged; and, as you know, the young people are doing better. I think they're beginning to realize that their vote does matter and that the older generations are running the show because they do least a little more often. Sarah Scott

Mark Steger said...

Sarah Scott, we can hope. Someone else said (I didn't do the research myself) that the turnout in the District 2 precincts exceeded the turnout in the last election. If it grows each election until it's on par with the other precincts, that will be good.

Bryan holland said...

Always nice to see a Sarah Scott comment. A truly great Journalism teacher in her time. (at least Pam and kay say that.:) )

Full disclosure for me. I supported Vanessa and not Eron in the last election, and yes, I still have sour grapes as I just don't see anything that man ever did positively for our district.

The issue of voting is not based on age, it is based on race. When the school board put together the new format to appease a law suit,It was done involuntarily. What they were able to do was gerrymander each district to include a significant proportion of white voters with the minorities, which historically just don't vote. We kept two "at large" members for good measure.

It is a disenfranchised group that will take time. The lower results in the Hamilton park District is a testament to this. Eron's victory over Vanessa, is also a testament as he carried the Pearce White Portion of voters that were put in the Berkner district, and Vanessa carried the minorities, who actually lived in the Berkner area.

Adding Salt to the wound, a black female judge swore two candidates in, while Eron chose a white male from the Pearce area to swear him in. Not a good look.

The Hamilton Park district was kept African American to settle the lawsuit, thus one minority candidate.

Time changes the political narrative and is generally re-written by the victor. I just wanted to make sure these facts were documented.

--Bryan Holland Class of 75 (because I don't what to be unknown, even though I'm obsolete)

Bryan holland said...

Always good to see Sarah Scott. A treasure for our district, and a top notch journalism teacher in her day.

The issue of voting in this election was not segregated by age, but rather by race, which I may add was the veiled intent of the involuntary reshuffling of the "districts" by the school board. Each of those districts were set up to include a significant portion of white voters mixed with the minorities, with the exception of Hamilton park, which was at the center of the law suit. We threw in two "at large" board members to boot.

Minorities, vote at a less rate. This is why the Hamilton Park district has less votes.

It is also the reason Eron beat Vanessa in that district race. Vanessa carried the vote in the minority areas within the Berkner boundary, Eron carried the white vote within the Pearce boundary that was put in the Berkner voting area. (full disclosure, I supported Vanessa and yes, I do have sour grapes)

To add insult to injury, a black female judge swore in two board members, whereas Eron brought in a white male from the Pearce area to swear him in. Not a good look at all.

Minorities have been disenfranchised for a long time. It will take time to increase their voting block.

This school board's legacy will be one of keeping the status quo and will effect kids for at least another generation.

-- Bryan Holland. Class of 75, because I don't want to be unknown, even though I'm obsolete.

Mark Steger said...

Bryan, thanks for the feedback. If you click on the "Unknown" name, Blogger will show you how to get your name to appear there instead of "Unknown" (at least for future comments).