WALLA, Wash. — Political representation of Latinos in Sunnyside,
WA, is on the front burner of the Sunnyside
City Council this year, largely as a result of research conducted by Ian Warner
for a 2006 politics seminar at Whitman
Warner, a 2007 Whitman graduate, was part of a seminar taught by Associate Professor of Politics Paul Apostolidis. The course resulted in a groundbreaking report on the social conditions of Washington’s Latino population. “The State of the State for Washington Latinos” can be found in its entirety at www.walatinos.org. The research Warner did on voting rights in Sunnyside catalyzed local debate about the issue and also gained the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice.
to an article in the Yakima Herald-Republic published Wednesday, Jan. 2,
scrutiny from the Justice Department began near the end of 2006 after the Herald- Republic published several articles
about Warner’s research into the city’s at-large elections. He found the
election process to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act because its
at-large system produced racially polarized voting patterns that in effect kept
Hispanics (who represent 73 percent of the city’s population) off the council.
intends to change its at-large system to a system of three at-large seats and
four seats representing specific geographic districts.The city decided to make the changes,
according to the Yakima Herald-Republic, last summer after the federal
Department of Justice notified the city that its system did, as Warner had
concluded, violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Warner currently works for
the Public Defender Service for the District
Whether the proposed change (part district and part at-large council seats as opposed to entirely district-based elections) will be enough to solve the problems in Sunnyside, said Apostolidis, is still a matter for debate. Civil rights attorney and Seattle University Law School Professor Joaquin Avila, who was Warner’s community partner in 2006, commented that the proposed change to part district and part at-large council seats may not be enough to resolve Sunnyside’s violations of the Voting Rights Act.“Research will need to be done to determine whether a mixed system will have the same results in promoting racial-ethnic political equality as an all-district-based system,” said Apostolidis, who hopes to see some of the students in an upcoming class address this issue.
who created the seminar class in 2005 and taught it again in 2006, is co-teaching
a special edition of the research seminar this spring that will focus
exclusively on voting rights. Apostolidis and Gilbert Mireles, assistant
professor of sociology, in partnership with the League of United Latin American
Citizens (northwest regional and Washington
state chapters) will guide the project. Students and their LULAC partners will choose Washington jurisdictions and craft specific
analytical approaches to each location collaboratively, said Apostolidis.
students will do a combination of the sorts of inquiries that Ian Warner and
other students did successfully in 2006,” said Apostolidis. “They will both
examine the electoral rules and structures in light of the Voting Rights Act
requirements and evaluate efforts being made by local organizations (schools,
churches and civic groups) to register and mobilize Latino voters and to spark
other kinds of political participation by Latinos.”
January, he added, their work will be supported by a grant Apostolidis’ State
of the State for Washington Latinos project received last spring. The Learn and
Serve America innovation grant of $15,000 will be matched by a $7,500 grant
from Whitman. In receiving the grant, Whitman joined the National CBR
Networking Initiative, a network of community-based research practitioners
funded by Learn & Serve America and spearheaded by Princeton University
and the Bonner Foundation.
CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156