Justice Dept. steps in after research by ’06 alumnus

Becquer Medak-Seguin

An attempt at political justice for Latinos has been effected in Sunnyside, Wash. after the publication of research by Whitman alumnus Ian Warner, ’06, caught the attention of the federal Justice Department.

The Sunnyside City Council has revamped its election system after the Justice Dept. informed the town’s City Council that its at-large voting system violated the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department’s inquiry and, by extension, the overhaul of its voting system has come at the hands of research conducted by Whitman alumnus Ian Warner, ’06.

His research, conducted while taking a seminar class from Dr. Paul Apostolidis, Associate Professor of Politics, showed that Latinos in Sunnyside, who comprise nearly three-fourths of the population, were disproportionately unrepresented on the City Council.
Warner concluded that the at-large voting system, one in which all residents can vote for all seven council positions, “produced racially polarized voting patterns that, in effect, kept Hispanics (who represent 73 percent of the city’s population) off the council,” reported Senior News Service Officer Lenel Parish earlier this year.
In response, the Yakima City Council has changed its at-large system to one in which only three of the seats will is at-large and the remaining four will represent specific geographic districts.
It still remains unclear, however, whether the proposed changes –– part district and part at-large council seats instead of entirely district based elections –– will effect the change desired by Justice Dept. or adhere to the Voting Rights Act.
Warner’s research was published in Whitman’s 2006 “State of the State for Washington Latinos,” an “account of social and political conditions for Latinos in Washington State,” according to the report. The report is available on Whitman’s website or at www.walatinos.org.