Thursday, September 11, 2014

Voting Rights Act in Yakima, Part II: Options for the City & All ItsVoters


by Krist Novoselić

A federal court has ruled that Yakima’s elections are in violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Some may think that the City’s only options are to accept seven individual districts or appeal the ruling. This assumption is untrue as Yakima has more alternatives available than ceding to a district plan or wading forward with more litigation. A simple change to the voting rules can have Yakima keep at-large elections, while at the same time remedy issues of voter dilution.

Exclusive districts are not a solution mandated by the VRA. Making these so-called majority-minority districts is a decision by the parties in the lawsuit. Judge Rice’s ruling may have called on the City to submit a district plan, notwithstanding, legal precedence allows the defendant jurisdiction the choice of election systems as long its proposal actually does remedy the vote dilution. In other words — Yakima can choose to implement voting rules other than majority-minority districts.