A Montgomery County Judge ruled Friday in favor of CBSD Fair Votes, a grassroots organization that petitioned for a new voting map for the Central Bucks School District.
The decision means the election maps for the 2025 election in Central Bucks will contain three regions, rather than the nine it currently has.
“Fair Votes Plan,” said Judge Cheryl Austin, “is superior in its maintenance of political subdivision integrity because it splits fewer municipalities than the New Board Plan.”
While the school board’s plan splits six municipalities; one municipality (Warrington) is split three ways. Fair Votes plan splits four municipalities.
“In maintaining subdivision integrity, the Fair Votes Plan also keeps communities together and preserves communities of interest,” Austin said, in her decision.
Having fewer regions, she noted, means residents can vote for three of the nine school board members, rather than one.
“This will create a greater chance that residents will be electing board members that reflect their personal values,” the judge said. “Additionally, a three-region system increases voters’ ability to vote for at least one board member from every four years to every two years.”
Brendan Flynn, an attorney representing Fair Votes, applauded the ruling.
“Since January of this year, Fair Votes has worked tirelessly to prevent the current Central Bucks School Board majority from gerrymandering the election maps for the School Board,” he said in a statement.
“The Court’s selection of the Fair Votes Plan for use starting in the elections of 2025 ensures that the voters of the Central Bucks School District will select board members from three balanced regions which each reflect the slight Republican lean of the school district as a whole, and also ensures that, going forward, the voters of Central Bucks will have more of a say in the direction of the school district.”
The school district’s attorney, Sean Gresh, said the ruling would likely be discussed in executive session prior to the upcoming Nov. 14 meeting. Board members will then decide whether to put it on the agenda for some action or discussion.
“I was disappointed with the decision, of course,” Gresh said. “It will be reviewed with the school board and see what, if anything, they want to do.”
The school board’s Republican majority supported the district’s reconfigured nine-region plan, saying it allowed directors closer connection to their constituents and their needs.
Following the 2020 census, the district was required to create a new map, as population changes left some voting regions larger or smaller than others.
If its redrawn map had gone unchallenged, thousands of voters would have been assigned voting regions where they would not have voted for a school director until 2025. CB Fair Votes was formed around that issue and later submitted its map to the court for consideration. The district’s map, they argued, would continue to leave board members representing only those from the region that elected them.
All 18 Bucks County judges recused themselves from the case, causing the need for a Montgomery County judge to be assigned.
The school district can appeal the judge’s decision.
Should the new map take effect, nearly 90,000 voters will be casting their ballots in new regions in 2025, including those currently in regions 1, 2 and 3.