YAKIMA, Wash. -- The final invoices are in, the ACLU has been awarded costs and fees, and Yakima is out $3 million as the book closes on its long-running voting rights battle in federal court.
From 2012 through April of this year, the city spent $1,167,552 on attorney fees and expert witness costs, according to records obtained from the city. With $1,846,014 paid to the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union under a court order, Yakima’s final costs in the case are at $3,013,566.
City legal staff said they do not anticipate more costs, although population changes in the years to come could lead to redistricting adjustments that may require legal services.
The city has a tentative deal with the ACLU to get back $100,000 to support programs promoting civic engagement for underserved communities, but the finer details are yet to be negotiated and signed.
The lawsuit, brought by Yakima residents Rogelio Montes and Mateo Arteaga, successfully changed Yakima’s council elections to a district system that includes two majority Latino districts. Three Latinos were elected in the 2015 elections under the new system, the first three ever to be elected to the Yakima City Council.
The city appealed the case after federal Eastern District of Washington Judge Thomas Rice ordered the city to adopt the new district system in 2015. That order followed a decision in 2014 in which Rice said the city’s former hybrid of at-large and by-district voting “suffocates” Latinos through a pattern of racially polarized voting.
The city’s hopes of prevailing hinged on a Texas redistricting case before the Supreme Court in which plaintiffs argued only eligible voters should be counted in drawing districts rather than total population, but the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against them earlier this year.