Washington: Republicans and Democrats offer competing voting-rights bills in Legislature | The Seattle Times

Republicans and Democrats have introduced competing voting-rights bills that have rekindled debate over efforts aimed at making local elections more hospitable to minority candidates. The four bills would remove a 1994 state restriction that prevents most Washington cities from replacing an at-large voting system with district elections. At-large voting means candidates run citywide for the office. In districted voting, candidates are picked by voters within a smaller geographic area. In Seattle, seven of the nine City Council members are elected by districts while the other two are picked by voters citywide. The current proposals come in the wake of a 2012 federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Yakima. In that case, a judge found that Yakima’s at-large system violated the federal Voting Rights Act and ordered the city to elect its council members by district, giving the city’s large Latino population a better chance of being represented.