POLITICS

Federal judge rules Virginia Beach voting system is illegal

I agree! Get all of them out. They have done nothing. And get others out too, i.e. the Mayor, City Manager, Police Chief and anyone else that holds a position to make a decision on how money is spent or on the well-being of the Virginia Beach citizens.

-Queenie

Pilotonline.com

VIRGINIA BEACH — A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Virginia Beach’s method of electing City Council members is illegal and cannot be usedin future elections.

In a 135-page order, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson said the at-large voting system violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Hispanics, African Americans and Asians.

“Today is a day that communities of color in Virginia Beach can celebrate justice and fairness for their voting rights,” said Gerry Hebert, senior director of voting rights and redistricting programs for The Campaign Legal Center, who represented the plaintiffs. “We are thrilled with this decision.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law legislation that would force Virginia Beach to change the way it elects local leaders. The change in law, which does not go into effect until January 2022, requires that district representatives for the City Council and School Board only appear on ballots for the voters who reside within the bounds of the district.

Latasha Holloway and Georgia Allen, both African American residents registered to vote in Virginia Beach, filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the city’s current voting system, which has allowed all voters across the city to elect district council representatives since 1966.

Marginalized racial groups make up about 33% of the city’s population. But in the city’s history, only five Black people and one Asian-American have been elected to the City Council. Additionally, one Black man has been appointed to a council position.

The judge said there’s strong evidence that white voters consistently blocked the elections of candidates preferred by minority voters in elections between 2008 and 2018.

Jackson ordered that the city to “not implement or utilize any practice, policy, procedure or other action that results in the dilution of minority participation in the electoral process.”

Last week, the city asked the court to declare the issue moot since Northam approved the new law. The judge said the case is not moot since the voting system is still in effect. The court will set another hearing to determine remedies.

Hebert, one of the attorney’s in the case, said that the victory is a culmination of a decades-long effort of communities of color advocating for the city to change its at-large district voting model.

He said there are not many cities left in the United States that have comparable voting systems to Virginia Beach, which he called a “relic of a bygone era.”

The judge ordered the city to pay the legal fees, costs and litigation expenses for the plaintiffs within 30 days, which Hebert said the Campaign Legal Center is in the process of adding up.

“There’s going to be a sizable amount of attorney fees due,” Hebert said. “It’s unfortunate because the taxpayers of Virginia Beach will pay for that.”

A city spokesperson said staff are digesting the opinion and the City Council will discuss it in a closed session on Tuesday.

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