A North Texas school district that wrongfully kept a challenger off the May 7 ballot must now hold a special election to fill a school board seat.

The Second Court of Appeals ruled last week that Burleson Independent School District violated the law when it rejected Nona Reed’s application to run for school board and then declared two unopposed incumbents re-elected.

“This is a huge win against those who seek to abuse rules to benefit incumbents and others in power,” Reed’s attorney Warren Norred said.

Reed, a former teacher in the district, applied to run for Place 1 on the final day and was the lone challenger to incumbent Shawn Minor. District officials then informed Reed that her application was incomplete and could not be accepted.

A review by the Secretary of State’s office concluded the application was acceptable under Texas law. Reed and others in the community asked district officials to reconsider.

“But the District chose to behave unreasonably, insisting that the ballot application process is really a ‘gotcha’ trap, rather than one designed by the legislature to achieve a ‘just and reasonable result,’” the court wrote in its opinion.

“Nona’s application had a couple of errors in it, but all the information necessary to process the application was present,” Norred said. “Though the application contained no fatal flaw, the Burleson ISD decision-makers decided to reject the application. Then the full Board of Trustees voted to cancel the election.”

Norred said this case “went the right way,” but a court can’t always provide a remedy:

Many election issues cannot be fixed because the fight starts too late. But for now, in this case, let the tiny tyrants see that some candidates won’t take it, will obtain representation … and the would-be kings have to recognize their duty to accept qualified challengers.

The court ordered Burleson ISD to set a special election for Place 1 between Reed and Minor.