McKinney City Councilmember La’Shadion Shemwell has refiled his voting rights lawsuit against the city’s special election to recall him from office, claiming the process is racially motivated.
Shemwell, an outspoken Black Lives Matter activist, wants a federal court to stop the recall election, set for November 3, or limit participation to just eligible voters within his District 1.
His complaint challenges the legality of recall provisions in the city charter, approved by voters last May, that lowered the number of signatures required on recall petitions and clarified all recall elections are citywide.
He claims “white city officials,” including Mayor George Fuller, supported the recall rule changes “for the purpose of diluting the strength of Black and Latino voters” in his eastside majority-minority district, violating the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
Shemwell was elected by voters in his district and says only they should be able to remove him:
“There is no legitimate, non-racial explanation or justification for the changes to the city charter that would allow the recall of Plaintiff Shemwell, the District 1 councilman, to be voted on by the entire city.”
Shemwell was elected to represent District 1 in 2017, and his term expires in May 2021. According to his complaint, he is the second black elected official in the city’s history, and no minority candidate has ever been elected to a citywide seat or any of the city’s majority-white single-member districts.
The city was required to order the recall election, originally set for May, after citizens submitted a recall petition in December signed by over 3,000 voters. Shemwell’s complaint says a “vast majority” of signatures came from voters outside District 1.
Residents who initiated the recall said Shemwell’s false claims of institutional racism within McKinney hurt the entire city. His inflammatory “Black State of Emergency” declaration in October accusing McKinney and other local governments of “conspiring to kill, injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate” their “black and brown citizens” was the final straw for many petition signers.
Shemwell filed a voting rights lawsuit against the city in January, hoping to block the recall, but he dropped that suit on March 13. A week later, the city voted to postpone the May recall election (the only issue on the ballot) until November due to concerns about the Chinese coronavirus.
He claims the city “purposefully” rescheduled the recall to make it harder for him to retain his seat, and so the mayor and city council would be able to appoint a replacement.
“The results of this lawsuit will provide us with the answers we need to move forward as a city,” said Bridgette Ann, publisher of local government transparency website McKinney Citizen to Citizen. “Unfortunately, the court system seems to be the only way we can find these things out anymore.”
Shemwell has little time to make his case. Early voting in the November 3 recall election begins on October 13, and mail-in ballots start going out to voters on September 19.