State of New York

New York Cheektowaga Town Board Electoral Method Challenge

Young v. Town of Cheektowaga

Lawsuit filed on behalf of a local resident against the Town of Cheektowaga challenging the at-large system used to elect the Cheektowaga Town Board under the New York Voting Rights Act (NYVRA). The Cheektowaga Town Board is the six-member body that governs the Town of Cheektowaga, New York. The northwest portion of Cheektowaga has a majority-Black population, while the rest of the town has a majority-white population. The plaintiff alleges that this creates racially polarized voting, where white and Black Cheektowaga residents support different candidates in state and local elections. The plaintiff argues the Black residents of northwestern Cheektowaga are unable to elect their candidates of choice in local elections, including the elections for members of the town’s board, violating the NYVRA’s provisions outlawing voting systems and electoral methods that dilute and suppress the political power of minority voters in New York’s state and local elections.

On Dec. 12, 2023, after the 2023 town board elections, the plaintiff sent a letter notifying the Town of Cheektowaga of a potential NYVRA violation. Once a town receives NYVRA notification letter, the town board must pass a resolution signaling their intention to address the violation within 50 days. The town must enact a remedy within 90 days of the resolution and remains immune from any legal action during the 90-day period. 

On March 12, 2024, over 50 days after they were first notified of a potential NYVRA violation, the current town board members voted on a resolution to hold a town-wide referendum during the 2024 elections on whether to adopt single-member districts, or wards to elect members of the town board. 

The plaintiff asserts that a referendum alone is not a valid solution because NYVRA violations can only be resolved by laws enacted by local government or a proposal approved by a court of law or the office of the New York attorney general. The plaintiff asks the court to order Cheektowaga to enact a map of six single-member districts for all future town board elections.

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