So ruled a judge yesterday in the ongoing lawsuit filed by the HCDE to void the Democratic primary in Precinct 1 Position 6.
The Harris County Department of Education told a federal judge Monday it wants to proceed with the lawsuit as a growing number of parties sought to dismiss the case.
Sarah Langlois, general counsel for the department of education, said the board’s motivation to continue the suit is the same as its reason for filing it: its trustees must be elected lawfully, lest their decisions be legally challenged later.
The department of education provides services to school districts in Harris County, from after-school programs to purchasing.
County attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit with U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal’s court on Monday, followed by a similar motion from the county Democratic Party. County Republic Party chairman Jared Woodfill, in an act of inadvertent bipartisanship that sent laughs through the courtroom, soon approached the bench and said he, too, wanted the suit dismissed; a lawyer for Democratic candidate Erica S. Lee echoed the sentiment.
Tuesday’s Position 6 trustee runoff election between Lee and former Houston city councilman Jarvis Johnson will proceed as scheduled using the correct boundary lines. The other flawed primary, between Republicans for the Position 4 seat, was a blowout, the outcome of which was unaffected by the error.
“I am pleased that the election that is in progress continues,” Lee said after the hearing.
Johnson called Lee’s position “disingenuous,” saying it would disenfranchise 1,400 voters who should have been able to vote in the May primary, but could not because the contest did not appear on their ballots.
“The 1,400 votes that could be counted would clearly favor me by making me the clear-cut winner. I believe I am the winner,” said Johnson, who got 49.5 percent of the vote in May to Lee’s 40.6 percent.
That’s what I’d argue if I were Jarvis Johnson, but let’s see what the numbers have to say. Johnson had 16,557 votes out of 33,459 cast in May (see here, page 21). Let’s take his figure of 1400 additional votes that should have been cast as accurate. There was a 13.60% undervote rate in that election, so we would expect 1210 actual ballots cast in that race, bringing the revised total to 34,669. Johnson would then need 17,335 votes for a clear majority, or 778 more than had actually had. That’s 64.3% of the 1210 extra ballots. I don’t have the statistical chops to calculate the odds of someone who received 49.5% of the first 33,459 votes collecting 64.3% of the next 1210 votes, but it seems unlikely to me. Unless you have some reason to believe that these votes came from a particularly Johnson-friendly set of precincts, it’s hardly a lock that he’d have won outright under a valid set of boundaries.
The lawsuit has not been dismissed; Judge Rosenthal will not rule on that until after all parties have submitted briefs on Friday and Monday. I prefer this to the settlement deal that had originally been proposed. What happens if someone files suit afterward is anyone’s guess; there’s no precedent for this that I know of. I hope we get a clear result, but at this point nothing will surprise me. Miya Shay and Houston Politics have more.