Washington State House Democrats


Yakima Mayor Gutierrez joined by Deputy Mayor Cousens and Councilmember Mendez to support Voting Rights Act at Olympia hearing

Olympia – The House State Government Committee heard supporting testimony this week from Yakima Mayor Avina Gutierrez, Deputy Mayor Holly Cousens, and Councilmember Carmen Mendez.

House Bill 1745, the Washington Voting Rights Act, would ensure that minority groups have equal opportunity for access and representation in local elections. It allows local governments to address issues of racial disparity without having to resort to expensive federal lawsuits. It authorize fixes such as creation of election districts in place of at-large elections. The legislation was approved the last two years by the House but was not considered by the full Senate.

“The fact that it took a very expensive federal lawsuit to bring about changes in Yakima’s election system is a clear indication that more work needs to be done,” said Representative Sam Hunt, the committee chair. “The time is now.”

I grew up in Yakima,” explained Rep. Sam Hunt (D-Olympia). “I believe that all people must have the opportunity to vote and to be represented.”

In their testimony, the Yakima council members stressed the need and importance of enacting the Washington VRA.

“It’s not about getting more minorities or Latinos elected, it’s about opportunity and representation,” said Yakima’s newly elected Mayor Avina Gutierrez during committee testimony. “The color of my skin and my name had nothing to do with it once we started a conversation.”

“We witnessed history in Yakima last year. For the first time, a community that had been systemically underrepresented is finally able to see itself in the face of government,” said Rep. Luis Moscoso (D-Bothell), who sponsored the legislation.

HB 1745 was approved by the State Government Committee and will be before the full House of Representatives in the next couple of weeks.