Mount Pleasant becomes first in NY to be challenged under state Voting Rights Act
A pair of independent experts are reviewing voting and demographics data in Mount Pleasant after a group of five Hispanic residents accused the town's at-large voting system of disenfranchisement.
This is the first time a municipality's voting system is being challenged under the New York Voting Rights Act which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last June.
The law, which combats voter dilution, suppression, and intimidation, went into effect last month.
"The Hispanic population in the Town of Mount Pleasant is disenfranchised, unable to elect candidates of their choice, and for a century they've been unable to get a seat at the table," said David Imamura, the attorney representing the five residents and Westchester County legislator.
Imamura said 19% of the town's population is Hispanic and about half of them live in the village of Sleepy Hollow but no minority candidate has ever been elected to the town board.
He and his clients support a ward system that would create a 'majority minority' district to give the Hispanic population a direct opportunity to nominate and elect a candidate of their choosing.
"Politics is representation and no one should be denied a seat at the table because of the color of their skin," said Imamura.
Last Friday, the town board held a special meeting to pass a resolution granting it 90 days to hire experts to look at the data and come up with a solution if necessary to avoid being sued.
"It's too early to make that determination of whether a ward system would need to be implemented. We have to look at the data and see where the voting trends are," said Darius Chafizadeh, Mount Pleasant town attorney.
Over the next 30 days, two experts will look at the demographics in the town, how people vote, as well as the outcome of each election and submit a report to the board.
The town will have another 30 days from the report to come up with possible solutions if it's determined the Hispanic population is systematically losing elections.
"If there's anything that needs to be done after the experts have reviewed and analyzed the data the town board will look at it at that point and see what needs to be done," said Chafizadeh.
A public hearing on any changes would follow and a new system would need to be in place by late November this year.