In a federal court ruling friday a judge decides that yakima's city council districting lines need to be updated to better include a large minority area on the northeast side of the city.
In August of 2012 Rogelio Montes and Mateo Arteaga filed a complaint to the Eastern Washington District Court challenging "the at-large election system utilized by the city of Yakima," stating, "this at-large scheme impermissibly dilutes the latino vote.. and thus violates section two of the voting rights act."
"No Latinos have ever been elected to the city council," said La Rond Baker, ACLU attourney
No Latino in the 37 year history of the current city council election format. One third of the voting population in Yakima is of hispanic descent and the ACLU feels that voice is not being heard.
"We believe that this gives Latino community in Yakima an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice to the city council which will give them more of a voice at the table and more of a say at how city services are distributed," said Baker.
Currently Yakima is divided into four districts. Four members of the council are voted in from these districts, while the other three members are at-large winners.
The ACLU has proposed at least three seven district maps, the largest consistency of hispanic voters are east of 16th Street which would make up their proposed district one.
"The ACLU's proposed remedy was seven single member districts the court has set a date of October third for the parties to confer and to develop remedial plans that we would submit to the court," said Baker
The October third deadline means some type of redistricting must take place after both sides discuss proposed plans. Until that next court hearing the city council can appeal the decision which could unlock many other variables leading into the 2015 campaign season.
A new way of electing officials could also be created through the remedial stages, one that would only allow voters to elect their districts officials
"That will be a decision thats made in the remedial stage, the court will enter an order to determine what the final election system will be like most likely there will be some districts if not all districts where only people in that district can vote on that particular candidate," said Baker
We asked city staff to comment today, but our calls were not returned. The city council has a closed meeting this Thursday to discuss the matter.