A federal judge on Tuesday shut down the city’s attempt to dismiss a voting rights lawsuit, which alleges that Lowell’s at-large election system has shut minority candidates out of local offices for decades and continues to do so. But even as U.S. District Court Judge William Young dismissed the city’s arguments that the case did not have enough merits to proceed toward trial, he expressed a concern with the plaintiffs’ case. Lawyers representing the 13 Asian American and Hispanic residents who brought the suit had argued that if some city councilors and School Committee members were elected by district, at least one district would be majority-minority and therefore increase the chances of a minority candidate gaining office.
“I had thought the Supreme Court had said — and they have said — that you cannot gerrymander … an electoral district on racial grounds,” Young said, after clarifying that he was simply expressing a question that occurred to him when he first read the case. “It seems to me, in a simplistic way, that is exactly what the plaintiffs want me to do here.”
After Tuesday’s hearing, City Solicitor Christine O’Connor acknowledged that succeeding on a motion to dismiss was always going to be a challenge, but that her team also “shared the concerns expressed by the court.”