A proposal to allow Washington cities to rearrange voting districts so minorities could have a greater voice in elections was praised Thursday as a way to avoid costly federal lawsuits and denounced as a Trojan horse for more litigation. The proposed state Voting Rights Act, which passed the House on a partisan vote during the regular session but stalled in the Senate despite bipartisan support, got an airing in a joint Senate committee work session. It’s unlikely to be revived for the special session, which is concentrating on budgets, but that didn’t keep tempers from occasionally flaring as legal experts disagreed on its effectiveness.
The city of Yakima has been ordered by a federal court to revise its council election system to allow better representation by a growing Hispanic population. Such costly litigation could be avoided under the proposal because city officials and a group challenging they electoral system would have more opportunities to negotiate a change, Shankar Narayan, of the ACLU which joined the suit against Yakima, said.
“Our entire purpose is to avoid litigation,” Narayan said. “If your claim is frivolous it will not succeed. It allows jurisdictions to adopt solutions.”