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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Texas City Replaces Unfair Voting System

DALLAS (CN) - The Farmers Branch city council has approved new single-member voting districts to reduce the apparent Hispanic bias in the previous at-large system.

Five single-member districts are now in place after a federal judge found in August that that the city had discriminated against Hispanic citizens in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

"Plaintiffs have proved, under the totality of the circumstances, that Hispanics in Farmers Branch have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice," U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater wrote.

The judge noted that Farmers Branch has a racially charged election history and that its elected officials still behave with hostility against Hispanics.

The new single-member voting districts approved Tuesday night aim to change that.

District 1, located near Interstate 35E and Interstate 635, is over 79 percent Hispanic, according to a draft recommendation memo the city manager presented to the mayor and city council.

To the east, Districts 2 and 5 are over 44 and 41 percent Hispanic, respectively. Several Hispanic city council and mayoral candidates have run for office in the past - none have succeeded.

The lawsuits against Farmers Branch spawned from laws that the all-white, all-male city council had passed beginning in 2007, preventing landlords from renting to illegal aliens in the city.

In striking down the voting system in August, Fitzwater said he relied on "the existence of racially polarized voting and the extent to which minority group members have been elected to public office."

"Both of these factors favor plaintiffs," the 41-page opinion states. "Plaintiffs have proved that the City Council elections in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011 were moderately to highly racially polarized, because Hispanic candidates received support from an estimated 54.1% to 88.1% of Hispanic voters compared to only 2.0% to 42.1% of non-Hispanic voters."

"Plaintiffs have established that the Farmers Branch City Council passed Resolution No. 2006-130, which 'declar[es] English as the official language of the city of Farmers Branch,'" Fitzwater added. "There is evidence of at least one proposal to eliminate foreign language materials from the library. And plaintiff Alfonso Baladez testified that he did not vote in the 2011 City Council election because he 'gave up,' - 'the people that [he] voted for were never elected. And there was nobody there representing the community, the Hispanic community.'"

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