Former Yakima mayor advocates for state Voting Rights Act

People in Yakima gather to support the Washington Voting Rights act, which aims to provide an alternative to federal voting rights lawsuits. (Photo by Eric Gonzalez Alfaro for OneAmerica.)
People in Yakima gather in 2015 to support the Washington Voting Rights act, which aims to provide an alternative to federal voting rights lawsuits. (Photo by Eric Gonzalez Alfaro for OneAmerica.)

Micah Cawley, who was the mayor of Yakima when the city was sued in federal court for violating the federal Voting Rights Act, writes in Crosscut urging the passage of a state Voting Rights Act bill.

Cawley, who opted not to run for a council seat after the redistricting imposed by U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice, criticizes the new district system in the Crosscut article but says that the bill would have allowed the city of Yakima to redistrict itself. Rice had rejected the city’s redistricting proposal.

Cawley, who also advocated for state Voting Rights Act last year, says the bill would allow cities to avoid lawsuits. The current lawsuit, which is under appeal, has cost the city of Yakima more than $1 million. He says his criticism of Yakima’s new redistricting is a question of representation — that only a few hundred votes were necessary to win a seat from the city’s majority Latino district but nearly 3,000 ballots were cast in the city’s majority white district.

Yakima fought the federal lawsuit and lost, and Rice implemented a geographic district system for the Yakima City Council, which created a majority Latino council district and another district also heavily represented by Latino residents. Last year under the new system, the city elected its first three Latina council members.

Earlier this year, the new Yakima council also voted to back the state’s Voting Rights Act bill.

The bill passed the Democrat-controlled state House this year and last year along party lines, but has not been voted on yet by the state Senate.

Crosscut: State must take the lead in protecting voting rights

Washington State Legislature: House Bill 1745

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