Yakima Plans to Revise City Council Districts for First Time Since ACLU Trial | Elections
The city of Yakima is considering a redistribution for the first time since a voting rights lawsuit resolved six years ago changed the way residents are represented by city council.
City council will review a new district map produced by city staff in November, City Manager Bob Harrison said. The map will reflect the population changes reported in the 2020 census.
City council districts were last redesigned in 2015 after a voting rights lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington. The change was ordered by a judge, who ruled that a majority of non-Latino votes suppressed the voting interests of the city’s Latin American population.
The ruling changed the hybrid voting system to one where board members are elected by the people they represent.
A new map with seven single-member districts has been approved. It included two predominantly Latin American districts in eastern Yakima.
A date for discussing the redistribution has not been set, but the board will review the map either in a study session on Nov. 9 or at a regular meeting on Nov. 16, Harrison said.
If the council decides to proceed with the redrawing of the districts, Harrison estimated that a new map would be approved by the end of the year.
Growth of the Latino population
The Latino population in Yakima grew by 9,405 people between 2010 and 2020, according to recent census data. During the same period, the city’s white population declined by 5,311 people.
The Latin American population has increased by 20 to 40% in the eastern part of the city, where the two predominantly Latin American neighborhoods are currently located.
Considerable growth has been observed in another part of the city. The Latino population in the southwestern part of Yakima has roughly doubled, according to census data, with growth of 80 to 120 percent in the region. This growth is in City Council District 7, represented by Deputy Mayor Holly Cousens.
The city can redesign city council districts, said deputy city attorney Bronson Faul.
Redistribution is not required locally as it is at the state level. Districts may be revised based on population changes reflected in census data, according to the city charter. The city must maintain single-member districts and comply with a 2014 judgment and the voting rights law, she said.
David Morales, a lawyer in Yakima and a former commissioner for Hispanic affairs, said the city likely needed to retain the Latin American majority in Districts 1 and 2, which remedied the voting rights of the Latino community after the trial.
“The city probably still has an obligation to maintain these districts as much as it can as majority Latino voting districts,” Morales said.
In the new maps, he said he expects minor adjustments to reflect population changes.
Harrison said the proposed card will meet the requirements outlined in the city charter.
Mayor Patricia Byers declined to comment on the redistribution and referred all questions to Harrison.