When residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, vote Tuesday, they’ll be exercising their civic responsibility against the backdrop of a lawsuit that will pit the city against its minority citizens. In a city notable for its diversity — taken together, ethnic minorities almost form a majority — Tuesday’s contests for City Council and school committee are playing out against a voting rights lawsuit 13 Asian-American and Hispanic residents filed against the city in May, an action that echoes others elsewhere in the United States. On Oct. 17, at the first public hearing on Huot v. City of Lowell in U.S. District Court, Judge William Young denied the city’s motion to dismiss. The suit alleges the city’s at-large electoral “winner-take-all” system dilutes the minority vote and discriminates against candidates from minority communities.
Young’s decision means the city government of Lowell is likely headed to trial against some of its minority residents.
The judge’s decision was expected, said Oren Sellstrom, a lawyer for the plaintiffs’ suit and a litigation director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. A trial date has yet to be set, he said.
The lawsuit will not affect this year’s elections, or change the city’s form of government with a city manager and a mayor elected from the City Council, or guarantee that minority candidates would win.