Federal judges and voting

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, from time to time, sees where some federal judge orders a locality to do something to comply with the Voting Rights Act. In most cases your Maximum Leader thinks that the judges are acting within the past interpretations of the Act. But every once and a while some judge does something really wacky.

Case in point… Port Chester, NY. In Port Chester a federal judge has ordered that every voter get 6 votes to cast in an election for Village Trustee. According to the AP piece:

Voters in Port Chester, 25 miles northeast of New York City, are electing village trustees for the first time since the federal government alleged in 2006 that the existing election system was unfair.

Although the village of about 30,000 residents is nearly half Hispanic, no Latino had ever been elected to any of the six trustee seats, which until now were chosen in a conventional at-large election. Most voters were white, and white candidates always won.

Federal Judge Stephen Robinson said that violated the Voting Rights Act, and he approved a remedy suggested by village officials: a system called cumulative voting, in which residents get six votes each to apportion as they wish among the candidates. He rejected a government proposal to break the village into six districts, including one that took in heavily Hispanic areas.

Your Maximum Leader really ought to try and find out what was at the root of the initial allegation put forth by the federal government in 2006. In a way he hopes that it was something more than the fact that no hispanic has been elected as a Trustee even though half the community is hispanic.

From what is written here, it seems as though this is a case of a federal judge (Stephen Robinson in fact) trying to get a particular result from an otherwise free election. If the case is as simple as it is depicted in the AP piece, then the underlying assumption is that since “nearly half” the village population is hispanic and there has never been a hispanic village Trustee there must be some civil rights violation. This seems like a wrong-headed assumption to your Maximum Leader.

Let us assume, for the sake of discussion, that there has not been any voter intimidation or other patently illegal method of manipulating the election results. What we are left with is an election with low voter turn-out and a number of candidates running for a 6 available seats. Is it unfair that the hispanic community is “splitting” their vote among the available candidates in a way that happens to prevent a candidate of hispanic origin from being elected?

Your Maximum Leader supposes that another, rather insidious, assumption here is that hispanics should only vote for hispanics and if they don’t it is unfair. Is your Maximum Leader the only person that gets this out of this piece?

Not only are these assumptions disturbing, but what the hell is up with giving voters 6 votes to cast? That doesn’t seem right. It seems positively… Communist… Or just Socialist… (Or perhaps just very Italian.) Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why dividing the village into precincts wasn’t a good idea…

The whole settlement of this case seems to be wrong-headed in so many ways.

Carry on.

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