Independent review finds Mount Pleasant's voting system is 'racially polarized'

A review of Mount Pleasant's at-large voting system found it was "racially polarized" and in violation of New York's John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Jonathan Gordon

Nov 15, 2023, 10:17 PM

Updated 157 days ago

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A review of Mount Pleasant's at-large voting system found it was "racially polarized" and in violation of New York's John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.
"Hispanic voters and Non-Hispanic White voters consistently support different candidates and the candidates supported by non-Hispanic White voters usually prevail in Mount Pleasant elections," wrote Dr. Lisa Handley, one of the two people in charge of the independent review.
A group of five Hispanic town residents were the first in the state to bring this type of challenge under the 2022 law, which combats voter dilution, suppression and intimidation. The law took effect in July.
Attorneys for the residents claimed 19% of the town's population is Hispanic and about half of them live in the village of Sleepy Hollow but that no minority candidate has ever been elected to the at-large town board.
Handley looked at all town-contested general elections for supervisor, council member and one town justice as far back as 2015 and found only one of the six Hispanic-preferred candidates won any of their races.
Jeffrey Wice, the other person in charge of the review, acknowledged the town has never had any allegations of racial discrimination or vote dilution in the past related to its at-large voting system.
"The newly enacted state law permits an action against the Town due to the level of racially polarized voting even though the Town has never taken overt action against minority voters; essentially a result of the decades-old at-large voting system," wrote Wice.
Challengers called for a ward system that would allow the town to create a majority-minority district that would give Hispanic voters direct representation.
The report said the town must take corrective action to fix the issue with its current voting system.
The first two public hearings will be on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 20 at 7:00 p.m.


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