U.S. Files Voting Rights Lawsuit Against the Village of Port Chester, New York

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NEW YORK, NY — Michael J. Garcia, the United States Attorney
for the Southern District of New York, and Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General
of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, announced
that the United States has filed a voting rights lawsuit in White Plains
federal court today against the Village of Port Chester, New York, alleging
that Port Chester’s system of electing members of its Board of Trustees violates
the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The
Complaint alleges that Port Chester’s at-large system, under which all Village
residents vote for each member of the Board of Trustees, results in Hispanic
citizens having less opportunity than white citizens to participate in the
political process and to elect candidates of their choice to the Port Chester
Board of Trustees. With the Complaint, the
United States also filed a motion seeking a
preliminary injunction preventing
Port Chester from using the at-large system in
its next election for two positions on the Board of Trustees, scheduled for
March 2007.

According
to the Complaint, the Port Chester Board of Trustees is composed of seven
members, consisting of six Trustees and the Mayor. The Trustees are elected at
large by all the voters in
Port Chester, and serve staggered three-year terms. According
to the Government’s papers, although Hispanics constitute 46% of
Port Chester’s population, and 22% of the
citizen voting age population, no Hispanic has ever been elected to the Board
of Trustees.

The
Complaint also alleges that voting in
Port Chester is polarized by race and
ethnicity, in that Hispanic voters almost always vote cohesively for the
candidate they prefer and the white majority usually and routinely votes
sufficiently as a bloc to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. The
Complaint also alleges that
Port Chester’s minority citizens bear the effects of historical
discrimination in the areas of housing, education, and health that hinder their
ability to participate in the political system on an equal basis with whites.

The
Complaint further alleges that the Hispanic population of
Port Chester is sufficiently numerous and
geographically compact that a properly apportioned, single-member district plan
for electing its Board of Trustees can be drawn in which Hispanic voters would constitute
a majority in at least one district out of six.

To comply
with the Voting Rights Act, the
United States argues in its papers, Port Chester must adopt a district plan, in which
Hispanic voters in
Port Chester would have an opportunity to elect a candidate from their
district. The
United States also stated in its papers that Port Chester was advised by the Government in April
2006 that its at-large system violated the Voting Rights Act, and the
United States provided it with proposed
district plans in August 2006. On
December 4, 2006, the Port Chester Board of
Trustees unanimously passed a resolution stating that it believes there is no Voting
Rights Act violation.

Mr.
Garcia stated: “The right to vote is the bedrock of our government. The
at-large system of electing
Port Chester’s Board of Trustees dilutes the votes of Port Chester’s minority citizens and undermines
democracy.”

“The
Voting Rights Act has been instrumental in ensuring the rights of all citizens
to elect representatives of their choice,” said Mr. Kim. “The Justice
Department believes today’s lawsuit is necessary to preserve the voting rights
of minority citizens in the
Village of Port Chester.”

Assistant
United States Attorney David J. Kennedy and Department of Justice Trial Attorney
Avner Shapiro are handling the case.

 

eHeziU.S. Files Voting Rights Lawsuit Against the Village of Port Chester, New York

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