Lawsuit argues Yakima Valley redistricting plan violates Voting Rights Act

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A group of Latino voters has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Washington state’s recently approved legislative maps violate federal voting rights law. He claims the redesigned 15th District in the Yakima Valley is diluting the strength of Latino voters.

Sonni Waknin is the general counsel and voting rights attorney at the UCLA Voting Rights Project, one of the groups suing. KUOW’s Kim Malcolm asked him how the new card violated the Voting Rights Act.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sonni Waknin: We’re saying the map, as it’s drawn, goes through the town of Yakima, pulls all these rural white voters into this supposed majority Latino district, and then grabs Latinos into the town of Othello so that the district as we’re calling it a “frontage” neighborhood.

Looks like it’s a majority of Latino voters. It’s a simple majority, 50.2%. But in reality, Latinos are seeing their votes diluted in the district, as they are lumped together with rural white voters who have voting habits opposite to Latino voters.

Under suffrage law, a protected class must have the ability to elect candidates of their choice. A district diagram cannot be drawn in a way that would not allow Latinos to be able to elect the candidate of their choice, but District 15 is drawn in such a way that there is a majority of Latino voters, but the district will not work for choice Latino candidates.

If these cards end up sticking around, how do you think that will affect Latino voters in District 15 over the next 10 years?

There is a long history of suffrage discrimination against Latinos in the Yakima Valley region. If these maps are kept in place for the next 10 years, Latino voters will face another 10 years of not being able to elect the candidates of their choice and not having a say in the races for legislative districts across the country. ‘State.

What is the possible impact for people who might run for office in this district over the next 10 years?

For candidates who may be the preferred candidate, it is more difficult to fundraise, gather resources, gain community buy-in when you have faced electoral discrimination for so long and lost a bunch of elections.

In the second case, if you’re not the preferred candidate of your choice, you know you don’t actually have to run an election that speaks to Latino voters in that area. You don’t have to go to their communities and campaign and try to win their votes. Then it also makes you a less reactive legislator. If you never have to ask people for their votes and you never have to go to their communities, then once you’re in power you never have to listen to their voices again either. .

A law firm representing Republican members of the redistricting commission has reviewed your organization’s analysis of the maps and they dispute that they would violate the Voting Rights Act. They say plans for a majority-minority Latino district actively seek to weaken Republican incumbents and strip the minority Republican Party have a significant opportunity to compete in Washington. How about that?

Political parties are not protected by the suffrage law. The law on voting rights must be respected. Our analysis shows that a Majority Minority District must be drawn in the Yakima Valley region to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The lawsuit seeks a court order for a new map in District 15. The defendants are all Democrats: Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins .

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

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