Mount Pleasant board opens public hearings on voting rights violations

The Mount Pleasant Town Board held its first public hearing on Thursday as it figured out how to move forward following an independent report that found its current at-large voting system violates the state's Voting Rights Act.
The report, done by two independent experts hired by the town, found the current at-large voting system in Mount Pleasant is "racially polarized" and that it dilutes the Hispanic vote.
This review followed a legal challenge by a group of five Hispanic residents in the town who argued the current system does not allow for their preferred candidate to win any elections.
"It's not about we, us, them. It's about we the people that live in Mount Pleasant," said one of the petitioners, Sergio Serratto.
More than a dozen residents spoke mostly split on the issue.
Those in favor of changing the system asked the board for alternatives like wards or rank-choice voting.
Opponents called it a political power grab by Democrats and urged the board in many cases to spend the time and taxpayer dollars to fight it.
"Would you be having this conversation with these people if they were Democrats or are you just doing it because they're Republican?" asked one resident.
The independent auditors told town officials they must come up with a new system that does not violate state law or it could face a lengthy and costly lawsuit by the residents.
Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi, who just won re-election, was tight-lipped about his level of concern following the report.
"I'm always concerned about everything," said Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi.
The public hearing will continue on Monday, Nov. 20, at 7 p.m.