The Yakima City Council unanimously ended a four-year fight Tuesday over how the city elects its representatives by ending its appeal of a voting rights lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union. In a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Maureen Adkison absent, the council withdrew its appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ending a case it had spent more than $1.1 million defending and will now pay the ACLU $1.8 million as part of a federal court order. “This is a $3 million reminder” that all residents should have a say in who represents them,” Mayor Avina Gutierrez said.
The lawsuit resulted in a federal judge ruling that Yakima’s council elections should be held by district last year, including two majority Latino districts on the city’s east side. No Latino had ever been elected to the council prior to those elections, but three Latino candidates won their districts in 2015.
The former City Council last year appealed the judge’s ruling in hopes that a U.S. Supreme Court redistricting case would support the city’s arguments. On Monday the court unanimously rejected the case out of Texas and took away what legal footing the city had left to argue.
There was little discussion — but a lot of smiles — before each council member voted to end the appeal. Councilman Bill Lover said it’s important the city use Tuesday’s vote as a launchpad into a better future.