Washington State Latinos Fight to Make Their Votes Matter
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Latinos in a Washington state community are fighting for fairness in elections.
In Yakima County, members of the county commission have remained white even as the Latino population has soared. Robin Engle, communications and development director for the immigrant rights group OneAmerica, said it's allowing the board to ignore the concerns of the Latino community.
"The very slight white majority in Yakima County is functionally able to win each of those three seats in virtually every election cycle," she said. "Only one, I believe, Latina candidate has ever won to serve a seat in the Yakima County Commission."
Commissioners are elected countywide. Critics of the current system would like to see Yakima County implement ranked-choice voting, Engle said. OneAmerica and four Latino voters have said they'll sue the county if elections aren't changed by July 13. Commission members have asked for an extension. They have said they're concerned about these issues and want to work collaboratively with residents to fix them.
Regelio Montes, a community activist in Yakima who signed the letter to the county commission, said the Latino community feels ignored, and not only because of the voting system. Commission meetings were changed to mornings, when many people are at work, and voting material and hearings aren't translated into Spanish. Montes said he feels the community has been discouraged from voting.
"We want someone that will represent everyone and focus on the whole county, and to take us as part of the community, too," he said.
If the county doesn't change its elections voluntarily, Engle said, OneAmerica will challenge it under the state's Washington Voting Rights Act, signed into law in 2018.
"It's a tool where voters can challenge their local municipality's election system if they feel their vote is being suppressed," she said, "and that challenge can have teeth."
Engle said her group is researching other localities where unfair election systems might also be challenged under the Washington Voting Rights Act.
The letter to the Yakima County Commission is online at weareoneamerica.org, and the text of the Washington Voting Rights Act is at crosscut.com.
Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
get more stories like this via email
Health and Wellness
A bill moving through the Kentucky Legislature would make fluoride treatment in drinking water optional for local municipalities. House Bill 141 …
New York state lawmakers have appointed members to the Community Commission on Reparations Remedies, created through legislation Gov. Kathy Hochul …
A new report argued many charitable foundations need to examine the origin of their wealth and repair harms done. The National Committee for …
A proposed urban reforestation program in Massachusetts aims to help cities mitigate the effects of climate change. Legislation would create a state …
A Wyoming nonprofit is helping single mothers climb out of poverty by connecting them with the training and support they need to step into and succeed…
Even though March is barely underway, parents of Wisconsin kids are being encouraged to plan for summer reading activities - especially if their …
A law aimed at immigrants crossing the border in Texas will not take effect tomorrow, after a federal judge halted enforcement until a court battle …
Minnesota already has a law calling for 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. Now, there's a similar plan for transportation, and a legislative …