The Yakima City Council may yet appeal a federal court ruling that the city’s current election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act, but not for now. The council met in executive session for an hour Thursday morning with attorneys to discuss the city’s options. The city can either appeal the ruling, offer its own plan for a new elections system, or work with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit, to attempt a compromise plan. After the closed-door meeting, which is allowed under state law to discuss legal action, Yakima Mayor Micah Cawley announced before gaveling the meeting to a close that the city would comply with the judge’s order. Cawley’s phrasing brought a stunned reaction from the small audience in attendance, who took it to mean the city would not appeal. Cawley later clarified that the city is still leaving its options open. “We’re not giving up any of our rights,” Cawley said after the meeting. “We’re going to comply with the judge’s order.”
The announcement comes as more attention turns toward Yakima in the wake of Friday’s ruling by federal Judge Thomas Rice that found the city’s current council elections system is in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Gov. Jay Inslee weighed in on the issue late Thursday afternoon, sending a letter to the Yakima City Council urging the council not to appeal the case and to implement a new elections system in compliance with federal law.