A federal judge has ruled that the way city council members are elected in Yakima, Washington, disenfranchises Latino voters.
That surprise ruling Friday comes exactly two years after the ACLU filed a federal Voting Rights Act lawsuit against the city.
The basis for the lawsuit was that Latinos make-up about a third of the voting-age population in Yakima. Yet, no Latino candidate has ever been elected to the city council.
The ACLU argued the problem was that council members are elected in a city-wide vote. The lawsuit called for council member to instead be elected by district. Now Judge Thomas Rice has concluded that Yakima’s election system “routinely suffocates the voting preferences of the Latino minority.” His preemptive ruling comes just as a trial was set to begin next month.
Judge Rice has now set an October deadline for both sides to submit a proposal for district-based council elections. The city of Yakima could appeal in the meantime.