Federal judge rules against Yakima in ACLU lawsuit

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A federal judge has ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit against the city of Yakima. ACLU argued that the voting system in place prevents Latinos from being effectively represented in council. The city doesn't agree it comes down to race.

"I really believe it's who's the best candidate that comes through the applicant pool that the council can agree on," said Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley.

Yakima currently has a system that combines elements of at-large and district voting. The ACLU solely wants district voting with the lines redrawn to better represent the community.

More than 41 percent of Yakima's population is Latino. No Latino has ever been elected to city council. Now that the judge has ruled, the two parties will go to mediation.

"It's a little disappointing to get up to this point and not go through trial and lay out the case," said Cawley.

In response to the judge's ruling, the ACLU released a statement that says:

"The Latino community in Yakima now will have a chance for their interests to be represented on the City Council." It goes on to say, "All voices of the community need to be represented in local government--that's what democracy is all about."

The city has already spent close to three-quarters of a million dollars in this battle and is worried the legal fees will continue to rise. However, they are hopeful to agree on a new voting system with the ACLU.

Both sides will now have to come up with proposals on how to reform the voting system. The plans will be presented on October 3rd.

Judge Thomas Rice's full opinion is available here.