Accountability – Is It Time To Revisit Yakima’s Voting System
Former three term Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley has been away from politics since he lost to former 14th District State Representative Charles Ross in the 2015 Yakima County Auditor race.
Cawley has been busy carving out a successful new career working for the John I Haas Hops company with a mostly Central USA territory. He got married, has a step son and a brand new daughter and he says life is really good right now...BUT...
Micah says he isn't ready to jump back into local politics at the present but he has some thoughts about a possible adjustment to the City's court-mandated-seven-district voting system.
Yakima used to have a system of 4 districts and 3 at-large positions but a federal judge ruled that somehow disenfranchised Hispanic voters and Yakima's near 50 year old system was flushed for seven district seats only. Cawley, Bill Lover and myself were the at-large representatives and we were not allowed to complete serving our duly elected four year terms. Cawley and I chose not to run again, Lover ran and won.
If you have been paying any kind of attention to the council chaos that has ensued since then, you may not need a lot of convincing as to why a different hybrid system might provide some needed oversight and accountability.
In the current system, Districts are pitted against each other for resources and opportunity with no elected official empowered to take the big picture look at decisions or referee.
Cawley suggests we all take a look at his website for the operational details of five district, two at large configuration. Following the 2020 census, communities are required to review their district lines to make there in a near equal number of people in each one.
Our contention with the ACLU was that you couldn't draw lines that would make the number of voters comparable in each district and still maintain an appox. equal number of residents. For example , "Those turnout disparities continued in 2017. In the general election, the majority-minority District 2 produced 807 voters—while District 6, drawn for whites, had a 3,545 voter turnout....Also in 2017, the number of ethnic Latinos elected to office dropped. Even though District 2 was drawn specifically for Latino voters, 71 percent of the district’s voters chose a white, non-Spanish speaking candidate Jason White over Latino Pablo Gonzalez. This after the incumbent Latina finished third in the August primary that had even lower turnout."
So what was accomplished in line with promoting Hispanics to the council? A little progress for a short term but lots of squabbling and undercutting the community confidence in the council. With new districts lines to be drawn, maybe this is an excellent time to consider making an improvement.
Micah Cawley spent time with us this morning talking about the specifics.