Discuss: Lawsuit challenges Yakima City Council's lack of Hispanic members
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court argues compellingly that the city of Yakima's at-large voting system dilutes the Latino vote.
Yakima uses a hybrid system. Three council members are elected at-large and four from districts. The problem? District elections occur only in the primary; in the general elections all seven seats are voted on at-large. The American Civil Liberties Union points to the city's census figures to support its contentions. Forty-one percent of the city's more than 91,000 residents are Hispanic, yet a Hispanic has never been elected to the City Council.
Why not just accept this as a lesson about democracy's majority rule? Fairness for one. The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects the rights of minorities to meaningfully influence an election. Not win the election, but rather have a voice that counts as much as the voter next to them. Majority rule works when the rules are fair and they do not disadvantage minority voters.
Th ACLU lawsuit is more than an intellectual exercise in representative democracy. Critical public services largely eclipse the Hispanic population because of their lack of political clout. As this Times story noted, parks and libraries aren't built on the city's east side, which is predominantly Hispanic, and educational opportunities are fewer.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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