Attorney News – White Plains Federal Court Judge Orders Remedy in Port Chester Voting Rights Case

LawFuel.com – Attorney Newswire Service –
PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, and THOMAS E. PEREZ, the Assistant
Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the United States
Department of Justice, announced that a federal judge in White
Plains, New York, today ordered the Village of Port Chester, New
York, to implement a remedy for its violation of the Voting Rights
Act.

In an oral decision rendered in open court, Judge STEPHEN
C. ROBINSON ruled that the Village could adopt its preferred
remedy, a cumulative voting system, provided that the Village holds
the election for all positions on its Board of Trustees at the same
time, and adopts a voter education program to explain this system
of election to its voters, to be part of a Consent Order with the
United States. Judge ROBINSON further ordered that the Village
election, originally scheduled for March 2010, be delayed to at
least June 2010 to implement the voter education program.

Under a cumulative voting system, each voter is given
multiple votes, depending on the number of positions that are open.
The voter may cast all of his or her votes for a single candidate,
or may allocate votes among candidates. In the case of Port
Chester, all six Trustee positions will be up for election.
Therefore, each voter in Port Chester will have six votes to
allocate between Trustee candidates; they may cast all six votes
for one Trustee candidate, or split their six votes between the
candidates they prefer.

The Court ordered the parties to develop a detailed voter
education and training program for the Court’s approval and to
return to Court on December 8, 2009.

The United States filed a Complaint on December 15, 2006,
alleging that Port Chester’s at-large system of electing its
governing Board of Trustees diluted the voting strength of the
Village’s Hispanic citizens, in violation of Section 2 of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965. The same day, the United States filed
a motion to enjoin Port Chester from using its at-large election
system on March 20, 2007, to elect two new trustees. On March 2,
2007, following a 10-day hearing, Judge ROBINSON issued a
preliminary injunction enjoining Port Chester from proceeding with
its March 20, 2007, election, finding that the United States had
shown that it was likely to prevail on its claim. On January 17,
2008, Judge ROBINSON concluded that, as a matter of law, “the
Village of Port Chester’s at-large system for electing its Board of
Trustees violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”

Today’s decision comes after extensive briefing and
testimony regarding the appropriate remedy to replace Port
Chester’s at-large system. The United States and plaintiff Cesar
Ruiz proposed a six-district plan, under which each voter casts one
vote for the candidate whom the voter would want to represent the
district, while Port Chester proposed cumulative voting.
Assistant United States Attorney DAVID J. KENNEDY of the
United States Attorney’s Office for Southern District of New York
and Department of Justice Trial Attorney TIMOTHY F. MELLETT are
handling the case.

Additional information about the Voting Rights Act and
other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice
website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.
09-363 ###

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