The U.S. Attorney General’s Office, heading up the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, filed for a temporary restraining order barring the Beaumont Independent School District from implementing voting changes ordered by Texas’ 9th Court of Appeals. The U.S Attorney General’s Office claimed jurisdiction in the matter pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that any voting procedure changes in Texas be signed-off on by the DOJ.
Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez penned the order, as he did the preliminary ruling for BISD’s proposed changed to institute at-large representation in 2012. At that time, in Dec. 2012, Perez wrote that voters’ wishes to make the change would be “retrogressive” to minority voters and subsequently denied the change. Perez is also denying changes instituted by the 9th Court of Appeals, as exemplified in his recent restraining order.
Perez held that Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure gave his office the power to “respectfully move for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction barring implementation by the Beaumont Independent School District (“BISD”) of voting changes submitted to this Court for preclearance pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Perez stated that on April 8 the Attorney General interposed an objection to the use of certain state court-adopted procedures for conducting the May 2013 BISD election for trustee Districts 1, 2, 3, and 5—including truncation of the terms of the incumbents in those districts from four years to two years—and changes to the candidate qualification procedures for those districts.
“The Attorney General determined that the BISD had failed to meet its burden under Section 5 of proving that these voting changes would not have a discriminatory effect. The Attorney General also advised BISD that he could not complete Section 5 review of the state court-adopted redistricting plan without additional information.”
BISD trustees are scheduled to talk about all pending litigation related to the May election during a special meeting April 9.