August settlement changes the way Yakima County Commissioners will be elected

YAKIMA — A settlement between Yakima County and an immigrant rights group will result in three elections for county commission seats over the next four years.

Reached at the end of August, the settlement was in response to a lawsuit filed by OneAmerica alleging the county’s election system disenfranchises Latinos, a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Commission candidates are selected as single-district members only in primaries and become at-large candidates subject to a countywide vote in general elections.

OneAmerica alleges Latinos — who are now a majority of the county’s population — are largely left out in that election design.

The three county commission seats are held by Amanda McKinney (District 1), Ron Anderson (District 2) and LaDon Linde (District 3), all Republicans.

District 1 covers the northwest corner of the county. Geographically, District 2 is the largest of the three districts, spanning much of the central and southern county. District 3 includes the east central corner and extends south.

Anderson won his second term in the November 2020 general election and McKinney her first. In November, Linde was chosen by commissioners to replace Norm Childress, who died of pancreatic cancer a year ago.

This November, Linde squares off against Republican challenger Autumn Torres in the general election.

What’s changing

Here’s what changes under the settlement:

—Commission districts for the three existing seats will be redrawn, giving one district a Latino majority.

—Candidates will be selected as single-district members in primary and general elections, meaning they will only be selected by voters in their respective districts.

—All three seats will be up for election in 2022, when the new district boundaries are finalized.

—Then in 2024, two of those seats will go up for election again to align with the presidential election.

It’s not clear at this time which two seats will be up for election in 2024.

The new district boundaries have yet to be released to the public.

Demographers appointed by each party have devised the new districts based on 2020 Census data, said Campaign Legal Center attorney Aseem Mulji.

Now county officials are expected to review census data and compare it to the new districts, Mulji said.

That could happen this month or next month, depending on when the county receives official 2020 Census data, he said.

County officials will have 15 days from the time of receiving that data to review the proposed district map.

If both parties agree to the new districts, the settlement and new district map will go before a Kittitas County Superior Court judge for final approval, Mulji said.

Source: Wenatchee World