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Federal Ruling Could Change City Election System

Will Yakima city leaders appeal a federal ruling that literally changes the way Yakima City Council members are elected? That’s the question facing council members after federal judge Thomas O. Rice issued a ruling today in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in the lawsuit it’s filed over voting rights in Yakima. The summary judgement says because of the strength of the ACLU case it should move past the trial phase and go to the remediation phase. In that phase the city of Yakima and ACLU would present ways that the city could change the way council members are elected. The ACLU wants to see the city adopt an all-district voting system for all seven of the Yakima City Council members. Since 1976 the city has used a mixed system of district and at-large voting. During the primary four of the council members are elected in districts. But during the general election all seven seats are voted in using the at-large system. ACLU officials contend that system has prevented Latinos from having a voice in local politics. It’s been two years of litigation that has cost the city $743,000. Now Yakima City manager Tony O’Rourke says it’s up the council members to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

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