WALLA WALLA, Wash.— The at-large election format in Sunnyside, Washington, is in violation of the Voting Rights Act and should be replaced by an alternative election format, according to Ian Warner, one of 14 Whitman College students who collectively researched and wrote the “The State of the State for Washington Latinos: 2006” this semester.

Ian, his classmates and Professor of Politics Paul Apostolidis presented their findings at an open public forum on Monday, Dec. 4, to a standing-room only audience composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni, Walla Walla community members and state dignitaries. Tuesday they shared recommendations with and asked for support from legislators Bill Grant (D) and Maureen Walsh (R).

“It sounds to me as if you all should be on staff at the House of Representatives,” said Grant after the meeting, adding that the amount and depth of the work completed is “amazing.” “It’s fantastic what Paul does with his students,” said Walsh. “And these are the policy makers of the future; that’s the real beauty of it.”

The students’ research covered topics in education, youth at risk, health care, housing and political empowerment, but the finding in all categories overlapped. “Latinos are the largest and fastest growing segment of Washington’s population,” said Apostolidis at Monday’s presentation. “Our future depends on the well-being of this segment of society.” According to the report, however, a lack of political representation for Latinos leads to disparities in education, health care, and other quality of life areas.

Among the findings of the 2006 report, compiled by members of Apostolidis’ Politics 458: Racism and Latinos in Washington State seminar, are the following:

  • Statistical evidence shows the existence of structural barriers to Latino political representation suggesting the need for court-ordered remedies under the federal Voting Rights Act;
  • Latino families disproportionately feel the effects of college tuition fee increases;
  • Latino Youth are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system;
  • Latinos in general and Latino immigrants in particular access health care at lower rates than the population at large;
  • Lead poisoning, respiratory illness and pesticide exposure are disturbingly common health issues stemming from the substandard housing where farm worker families often live.

Apostolidis, in an interview with the Associated Press, said “As a learning experience for students, it’s extremely unusual. They really did produce some new knowledge. It wasn’t just a rehash of what people know already.”

This report is the second such document produced by a class taught by Apostolidis. Last December his seminar class created the first: The State of the State for Washington Latinos. He was encouraged by many people, including Uriel Iniguez, executive director of the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, to continue the work begun in 2005. The 2006 report is the result.

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CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156
Email: parishlj@whitman.edu

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Paul Apostolidis, Associate Professor of Politics, (509) 522-4426
Email: apostopc@whitman.edu