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Silence Golden on Voter Rights Lawsuit

December 20, 2018

LOWELL -- What exactly happened behind closed doors during Tuesday’s federal voting rights lawsuit mediation session?

The public won’t know for some time, but the session in Boston’s Moakley Courthouse “went very well,” Lowell Mayor Bill Samaras said.

He confirmed that there will be another mediation session on Jan. 9.

Officials have been ordered to stay quiet about the private session.

“But here’s the thing, the federal judge said four times, ‘What is said here, stays here,’ ” Samaras said.

The plaintiffs in the case argue that Lowell’s at-large election system discriminates against minority communities.

Thirteen Asian-American and Hispanic residents brought the voter rights lawsuit. They argue that citywide elections have allowed the city’s majority white population to vote as a bloc and ensure white candidates gain office.

The belief is a district-based election system would give minority residents an equal opportunity to have at least one majority-minority district, and therefore increase the chances of a minority candidate gaining office.

Lowell City Councilors Vesna Nuon and Edward Kennedy recently made a motion for the city’s attorneys to propose a change to the city’s electoral system -- from an at-large system to a hybrid model of district and at-large.

The councilors, who as members of the Ad-Hoc Election Laws Subcommittee heard from residents from around the city, requested the city manager encourage the city solicitor to “engage in mediation with the plaintiffs in a good faith effort to resolve the lawsuit in a timely and reasonable fashion.” The City Council referred the motion to executive session.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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