The lawsuit filed by the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) over the trustee primary elections held with incorrect boundaries was dismissed by a federal court judge today.
HCDE filed suit after Harris County used the 2001 boundaries for two HCDE trustee primary elections on May 29, 2012, rather than newer, court-imposed interim boundaries.
“The Harris County Department of Education filed this lawsuit in order to protect HCDE and the Board,” said HCDE Board President Angie Chesnut. “We were concerned about challenges to future Board actions based on an accusation that one or more Board Members had been elected illegally.”
In the lawsuit, HCDE requested new elections be held for Trustee Positions 4 and 6, which had been conducted under unconstitutional boundaries and that a special election be held in conjunction with the general Election November 6, 2012. Thousands of registered voters were affected by this error—many people voted who were not supposed to vote in a particular race and many people were not afforded the opportunity to vote in the correct races but should have been.
Although HCDE requested specific relief of a special election, HCDE’s concern centered on ensuring the lawfulness of its governance and to that end, HCDE made it clear to the court that HCDE would abide by whatever relief the judge found appropriate to address the County’s use of unconstitutional boundary lines.
Even though the dismissal ordered today by U.S. District Court Judge Lee H. Rosenthal does not require a special election, it provides protection to HCDE from future federal law challenges to Board actions since anyone who wanted to complain would have had to have done so in this lawsuit before it was dismissed.
“The Judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit provides the protection we sought,” said Chesnut. ‘We have said all along that we would abide by the Judge’s decision, whatever it was.”
A runoff election for Position 6 was held July 31, 2012, using the correct interim boundaries. The election for Positions 4 and 6 will go forward on November 6, 2012.
Harris County Department of Education provides essential education services to the general public and 26 school districts throughout Harris County. HCDE serves Harris County with after-school programs, early childhood intervention, Head Start, therapy services, alternative schools for at-risk students, GED classes and assistance to educators.