Yakima considers revising City Council districts for first time since ACLU suit

YAKIMA — The city of Yakima is looking at redistricting for the first time since a voting rights lawsuit resolved six years ago changed how residents are represented by the City Council.

The City Council will review a new district map produced by city staff in November, city manager Bob Harrison said. The map will reflect population changes reported in the 2020 Census.

City Council districts were last redrawn in 2015 at the conclusion of a voting rights lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. The change was ordered by a judge, who ruled that a non-Latino voting majority was suppressing the voting interests of the city’s Latino population.

The judgment changed the hybrid voting system to a system where council members are elected by the people they represent.

A new map with seven single-council member districts was approved. It included two Latino-majority districts in east Yakima.

The council will consider the map next month, Harrison said.

If the council decides to proceed with redrawing the districts, Harrison estimated a new map would be approved by the end of the year.

The 2020 Census highlighted changes in Yakima’s Latino population that may affect redistricting.

The Latino population in Yakima grew by 9,405 people between 2010 and 2020, according to recent Census data. In the same timeframe, the city’s white population declined by 5,311 people.

The Latino population grew by 20-40% in the eastern part of the city, where the two Latino-majority districts are currently drawn.

Considerable growth was seen in another area of the city. The Latino population in the southwest part of Yakima about doubled, census data showed, with 80-120% growth in the area. That growth is in City Council District 7, which is represented by Assistant Mayor Holly Cousens.

The city can redraw City Council districts, assistant attorney for the city Bronson Faul said.

Redistricting is not required locally like it is at the state level. The districts can be revised based on population changes reflected in census data, according to the City Charter. The city has to maintain the single-member districts and comply with a 2014 judgment and the Voting Rights Act, it says.

David Morales, a lawyer in Yakima and a former commissioner for Hispanic affairs, said the city likely has to keep the Latino-majority in District 1 and District 2, which remedied the Latino community’s voting rights after the lawsuit.

“The city probably still has an obligation to maintain those districts as much as they can as majority Latino voting districts,” Morales said.

Source: Wenatchee World