Judge tells Texas city to use reworked districts

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Associated Press

Posted on February 3, 2013 at 4:02 PM

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas suburb that had targeted illegal immigrants through city ordinances will elect its next City Council from single-member districts following approval of the new election plan by the Justice Department and a federal judge.

With candidate filing for the next municipal election in Farmers Branch just underway, the change could allow election of the city's first Hispanic City Council member.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater had earlier ruled that Farmers Branch's at-large City Council elections violated the Voting Rights Act. The shift to single-member districts was the city's remedy. The Justice Department approved that plan Thursday and Fitzwater then told the city to implement it.

The Dallas Morning News reports (dallasne.ws/Vv7JBP ) that under the new election map, one district would have a majority of Hispanic voters.

"There is an appeal process, but I don't know if the council is in the mindset to do that," said Mayor Bill Glancy. "There is a question of whether this is going to be better for the city."

Farmers Branch has been tied up in costly litigation for years over an ordinance that sought to keep illegal immigrants from renting homes. The city has spent about $6 million in legal fees defending the ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem David Koch was the lone council vote against the new election map in October.

"Having districts like this ... encourages, promotes and facilitates segregation," he said.

Alfonso Baladez, 67, was one of those who sued the city. He had testified that he gave up voting because his candidate never got elected.

"I just wanted to be listened to," he said Friday. "Now I can go to my district councilperson. There are things that are just not right."

The candidate filing period for the election ends March 1.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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