Saturday, June 15, 2024

Ruling Calls for Change in Election Practices for Dallas Suburb


On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that the city officials of Irving, a Dallas suburb, must alter the way they run municipal elections. It was determined that the current election system was diminishing the voting power of its large and growing Latino population. The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Jorge A. Solis, prevents Irving from continuing to use an at-large system that allows political candidates to receive votes from across a broad geographic area rather than a specific district or precinct.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2007 by Manuel Benavidez – an Irving resident who has unsuccessfully run twice for school board – against the city. He believed the at-large election system kept Latinos from being elected to local offices because they were out numbered by a majority of white voters voting for other candidates.

“My hope is that this case brings progress and hope to our community and to communities all across the country,” Benavidez said after hearing the judge’s decision. “This case is particularly important right now, because of the growing Latino population in the city of Irving.”

Irving officials are going to discuss the judge’s ruling during next week’s meeting and will attempt to develop and agree on an election and redistricting plan.

In the 2000 Census, the city of Irving was found to have a population of 191,000 and 31 percent of this population was Hispanic; this percentage according to 2006 Census Bureau estimates has risen to nearly 42 percent. Despite the large number of Latinos in Irving, not one of the city’s eight current city council members is Latino and only one Latino candidate has ever successfully won a seat on the council in the last twenty years.

Benavidez’s attorney, Bill Brewer believes the ruling has the potential to have broader implications other in cities throughout the country where Latinos and other minority populations have been increasing, especially as the U.S. gears up for the 2010 Census. “We hope it contributes to the conversation when people are determining how inclusive we ought to be as we go through these changing times with the demographics upon us,” Brewer said.

Houston Chronicle