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Ruling Says Farmers Branch Violated Voting Rights Act

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FARMERS BRANCH (CBSDFW.COM) – A U.S. District Court ruling announced Thursday says the city of Farmers Branch is in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Ten Latino residents filed suit against the city challenging its “at large” system of electing city council members. The plaintiffs claimed the at-large system denied Hispanic voters, who are 45 percent of the Farmer Branch’s population, the ability to elect Hispanic candidates.

In the at-large process used by Farmers Branch, candidates were elected by votes received city-wide instead of in specific districts or precincts.

The plaintiffs believe that if the city were divided into districts, Hispanics would have more voting power. To prove their argument the plaintiffs asked the judge to look at four different recent elections. All Spanish surnamed candidates on the ballot lost.

In an opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater wrote, “Plaintiffs have proved, under the totality of the circumstances, that Hispanics in Farmers Branch have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

“We hope we will, like I say, get representation. Someone to represent our community, someone to make us feel like we are a part of the community,” said Maria Reyes, one of the ten plaintiffs.

The ruling states Farmers Branch has 60 days to submit a plan which will bring it back into compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

“Once they get a briefing on that, they will make a decision how they want to go forward. Their choices are basically to appeal the decision or adopt the ruling.” said Farmers Branch spokesperson Tom Bryson

This not the first legal battle between the city and its Hispanic population. Farmers Branch passed an ordinance banning illegal immigrants from renting housing. The ordinance was overturned by federal 3 judge panel earlier this year . That decision is currently under appeal.

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