Yakima City Council: "We are going to comply" with order in ACLU case

YAKIMA, Wash. - Yakima City Council will not fight a federal judge's order after losing the high-profile Voting Rights Act lawsuit. That announcement came today after council met behind closed doors. KIMA asked whether Yakima might still appeal.

"We were advised regarding the next phase of the litigation," said Mayor Micah Cawley. "And, we are going to comply with the judge's order. That's all we have to say."

With that, Yakima city councilmembers made for the exits after an hour-long closed door meeting. They gave no details how they would comply with the judge's order to change the election process for city council.

KIMA pressed Cawley for more details.

"So, is the option of an appeal still on the table?"

"It's on the table, I'd assume, until the window closes," said Cawley.

He says Council is taking things one step at a time.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see how the remedy phase turns out. You can't take these things and go, you know, here's step 5, here's step 6."

A federal judge found the city's current voting system suffocates the Latino vote and violates the Voting Rights Act. Four of Yakima's seven councilmembers represent districts. A district vote narrows the field for those seats in the primary, but a citywide vote decides the general election. The other three councilmembers are always subject to a citywide vote.

Realtor Nestor Hernandez belongs to Yakima's Latino Business Association.

"It's a big part of the community that is not being heard, that is not being represented to the city."

He hopes the decision translates to Latino representation.

"We need somebody that understands our culture and understands our needs, and that actually lives in their district."

The judge wants to see a new redistricting plan by October 3. Both parties can work together or submit their own proposals.

No Latino has ever been elected to Yakima City Council. Latinos make up roughly a third of the city's voting population. Governor Jay Inslee weighed in on the subject this afternoon. He issued a letter urging Yakima not to appeal the decision.