New York Hispanic Voters File First Lawsuit Under State Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a group of five Hispanic voters from Mount Pleasant, New York filed the first lawsuit under the New York Voting Rights Act challenging Mount Pleasant’s at-large system for electing members to the town board.  

Signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in June 2022, the New York Voting Rights Act (NYVRA) created a “preclearance” procedure that requires certain jurisdictions with histories of discriminatory voting practices to get approval from the state attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau before new changes go into effect. Additionally, the NYVRA outlines legal tools and remedies for individuals to fight against discrimination in court if the right to vote for protected groups is violated. 

Today’s complaint brought by Mount Pleasant residents alleges that the town’s at-large voting method violates the NYVRA by not allowing Hispanic voters to elect a candidate of their choice to the town board —the town’s legislative body that has control over the town budget, zoning, taxes and more.

According to the complaint, experts hired by the town — located in the Westchester County suburbs just north of New York City — determined that the town is violating the NYVRA by disenfranchising Hispanic voters. The plaintiffs argue that the NYVRA requires the at-large system to be changed to ensure Hispanic voters are “no longer denied the adequate electoral representation they are guaranteed by law.” 

“[T]he Town routinely neglects the interests of the Hispanic community, whose pleas fall on deaf ears. For example, the current Town Board opposes affordable housing projects, which are overwhelmingly popular among Hispanics, but are disfavored by the white majority. The Town has also recently declared a state of emergency aimed at preventing asylum seekers from residing in the Town, even though the Hispanic community in Mount Pleasant would be opposed to doing so,” the complaint reads. 

As mentioned in the complaint, the Hispanic community is 19% of the town’s population and in Sleepy Hollow, a village within Mount Pleasant where the Hispanic population is concentrated, Hispanic residents comprise 47% of the population. Despite the significant Hispanic population, every person ever elected to the town board has been white. 

The plaintiffs allege that the town’s at-large election method violates New York law by suppressing voters and diluting Hispanic voters’ voting power. The plaintiffs request a court order declaring the at-large method in violation of New York law and request that the court adopt a new plan for the 2025 town elections. 

State-level voting rights acts are an important tool in fighting discrimination in redistricting. This case will be the first to put New York’s to the test. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.

Learn about state level VRAs here.