A group of minority residents from Lowell, Massachusetts, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging the city's election system dilutes their voting power.
The lawsuit filed by 13 Asian-American and Latino residents claims the city's use of at-large elections for the city council and school committee deprives minorities of an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. It claims the system results in those boards having a makeup that is not representative of the city's population.
The city of about 110,000 residents is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Boston. Its population is about 49 percent minority, but the nine-member city council and six-member school committee are all white, the lawsuit says.
City attorney Christine O'Connor declined to comment immediately because she had not yet seen the lawsuit.
Chanmony Huot, a lifelong Lowell resident of Cambodian descent who is one of the plaintiffs, said the lack of diversity makes city government less responsive to minorities. Asian-Americans make up about 22 percent of Lowell's population.
The lawsuit says many other cities and towns have moved to a system that includes at least some district-based seats to ensure greater diversity and neighborhood representation.
The complaint alleges the use of citywide at-large elections violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
The residents who filed the lawsuit are represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and a Boston law firm.