Yakima to consider dropping Voting Rights Act appeal

The Yakima City Council in 2016. (Photo by the city of Yakima.)
The Yakima City Council in 2016. (Photo by the city of Yakima.)

The Yakima City Council, which picked up its first elected Latina councilmembers last fall, will consider withdrawing its appeal of the Voting Rights Act lawsuit that the city lost in 2014.

According to the Yakima Herald Republic, the city councilmembers — the majority of whom are in their first term under the new election system — put the matter on its April 5 agenda. The vote to put it on the agenda was 5-1, with one councilmember absent.

The council before last year’s elections voted to appeal a federal ruling awarding the American Civil Liberties Union $1.8 million after a judge agreed that the city’s council election system had violated the Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice agreed with the ACLU that Latino representation was suppressed by the citywide voting system, with no Latino councilmembers ever elected despite a population that was 41 percent Latino or Hispanic.

Under the new system, all seven seats were up for grabs, and four of the incumbent councilmembers declined to run for their seats. Currently, four out of seven members of the council are in their first term.

In the meantime, a proposed state law that would have provided an alternative to a federal lawsuit — which was backed by Yakima’s current council and its former mayor faltered in the state legislature for the fourth year in a row.

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