By Manuel Valdes
SEATTLE — A U.S. District Judge says the city of Yakima must change its city council elections to comply with the Voting Rights Act, finding that Latino residents do not have proper participation.
Judge Thomas Rice’s summary judgment on Friday came after the Washington chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Yakima in 2012, saying at-large elections dilute the Latino vote and block representation despite the minority group making up a third of the city’s voting-age population.
“The Latino community in Yakima now will have a chance for their interests to be represented on the City Council. Latino voters will be able to elect a candidate of their choice and to have more of a say in how city services are distributed. All voices of the community need to be represented in local government – that’s what democracy is all about,” said ACLU of Washington Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.
The city has four council members who represent districts and three at-large members, but the district candidates are only selected in the primary election. Every resident casts votes for each council seat in the general election.
A message left with a spokesman for the city of Yakima was not immediately returned.