A federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday on the city’s request that he dismiss a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that Lowell’s election system discriminates against minorities. The 13 plaintiffs in the case argue that system, whereby all nine city councilors and six School Committee members are elected at-large, ensures that Lowell’s majority-white population can effectively block minority candidates from gaining office. Only four non-white residents have been elected to the City Council, and none have been elected to the School Committee. Virtually all other cities in Massachusetts have switched to some form of district-based representation. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in May. In September, the city moved to have the case dismissed.
In her motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, City Solicitor Christine O’Connor argued that the plaintiffs had not offered enough evidence to back up their assertion that in a district-based system there would be at least one district that is majority-minority, and could therefore have the voting power to elect a minority candidate.
“Plaintiffs should not be permitted to proceed based only upon vague and conclusory pleadings that an unspecified prospective district ‘would be’ majority-minority (at least when Asian-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are combined) when they have presented no factual basis for such a claim,” she wrote.
O’Connor added that the plaintiffs should have presented details of the district they had in mind, and that they could not group Asian-American and Hispanic residents together as one group constituting a minority that requires protection under federal voting laws.