Challenging At Large Voting in Lowell:
Resources & Fact Sheets
On May 17th, Asian-American and Latino voters in Lowell filed a lawsuit against the city for its use of At-Large Voting to elect its City Council and School Committee. The complaint filed in Federal District court said the at-large system where all nine city councilors and six school committee members are elected citywide denies them and Lowell voters generally the equal opportunity to fair representation required under the U.S. constitution and Voting Rights Act.
Used in Lowell since 1959, At-Large voting is well known to be the least representative of all voting methods. The federal government has banned at-large voting for congressional elections. Most every Massachusetts city has replaced at-large systems in favor of use primarily neighborhood-based district elections with some at-large seats to ensure the whole city is represented and voters have more access to and interaction with elected officials in every neighborhood. Here are resources to learn more.
1. Fact Sheets
2. PowerPoint Slides
3. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights – Boston
The Boston Lawyers Committee and attorneys from the law firm of Ropes and Gray represent the plaintiffs. At this time the City Council has established a committee to study district elections but the city has not responded formally to the complaint.
4. In the News
Lowell Sun:Minorities Sue Over Voting Rights
Boston Globe: Lowell Should Dismantle At Large “majority rule” system
Boston Herald: Lawsuit Says Lowell Dilutes Voting Power of Minorities
U.S. News and World Report: Voting Rights Lawsuit Filed in Lowell MA
5. Make up of Lowell Student Population – 2016-2017
Lowell is a growing and diverse city.
The Lowell School Committee has never had minority representation in the 60 years since the city adopted it current voting system.
6. Additional Resources
For large cities like Lowell having most seats elected in local districts gives more opportunity for voters and candidates alike. They better reflect the city’s neighborhoods and populations. Retaining a few at-large seats does bring in a citywide perspective. The question is should Lowell continue using the current winner-take-all voting for the at-large seats. Or should it move to one of three semi-proportional methods that ensure one voting block doesn’t control all the at-large seats. Read more on the three fair vote methods – Limited Voting, Cumulative Voting, and proportional Ranked Choice Voting.