The way we choose Yakima County commissioners is changing.
Yes, at a troubling time when many politicians — and their major donors — are using vote suppression and gerrymandering to circumvent the will of the majority, a Friday ruling in Kittitas County Superior Court is a step in a better direction.
It’s a positive step toward making sure everyone’s vote counts and that everyone gets fair representation on the commission.
The long and short of it is this:
Superior Court Judge Candace Hooper approved a settlement on Friday that the county struck with OneAmerica and the Campaign Legal Center. The two groups had sued the county, claiming the county’s election system violated the state Voting Rights Act and diluted the votes of Latinos.
The settlement redraws county commission districts, preventing boundaries from splitting cities and the Yakama Nation. It also results in a district with a majority Latino population.
Latinos make up the majority of Yakima County.
The deal also means that all three commissioner seats will come up for a vote in 2022 — and candidates will be chosen exclusively by voters in the districts they want to represent.
So in 2022, a candidate running for commissioner from, say, Grandview, won’t need the approval of voters in distant corners of the county like Selah or Naches to represent his or her neighbors.
It’s the essence of local control.
Which is, of course, the frequent rallying cry of so many Yakima County residents who so vehemently object to rules that originate in Olympia that they routinely threaten to break off into their own state.
In this case, we applaud the current Yakima County Commission, which endorsed the redistricting settlement. They did it with some under-their-breath grumbling, but they did it.
The fact that they acknowledge the current system wouldn’t hold up in court is perhaps a tacit admission that the system was restraining Latino votes, as OneAmerica and the Campaign Legal Center argued. Commissioners were pleased the agreement didn’t include ranked-choice voting.
However it came about, we’re glad to see it. If we want to have a democracy, everybody should get a vote.
And if you think today’s election is interesting, just wait till you see three open county commission seats on the ballot in November 2022.