MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
CITY OF CHELSEA, MASSACHUSETTS AND THE UNITED STATES
The United States has conducted an extensive investigation into whether the method of election for the Chelsea School Committee denies Hispanic voters an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973. After completion of this investigation, on April 15, 2003, the United States notified the City of Chelsea of its allegation that Chelsea's method of election does violate Section 2 and invited the City to engage in negotiations prior to the filing of any lawsuit to enforce Section 2. Since then, the City of Chelsea and the United States, through counsel, have conferred extensively and agree that it is in the best interests of all parties that this matter be resolved without the expense of protracted and costly litigation. Accordingly, the parties have entered into the following Memorandum of Understanding. The parties stipulate as follows:
- The City of Chelsea, Massachusetts is a political and geographical subdivision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- The Chelsea School Committee is the body established under the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that is responsible for governing the Chelsea School District, in accordance with and subject to Chapter 133 of the Acts of 1989, as amended.
- The Chelsea School Committee is currently composed of seven members elected at-large in nonpartisan elections to two-year terms. Currently, the School Committee members are Arthur Bowen, Rosemarie Carlisle, Elizabeth McBride, James O'Regan, Morris Seigal, Lydia Walata, and Deborah Washington.
- In the April 15, 2003 letter, the United States set forth its allegation that the current method of electing members to the Chelsea School Committee, under the totality of the circumstances, results in Hispanic citizens having less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986).
- The usual and appropriate remedy for at-large methods of election that dilute minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is the drawing of districting plans that do not dilute minority voting strength.
- To prevent any potential Hispanic vote dilution in the City of Chelsea, the United States and the City have agreed to implement the districting plan attached hereto as Exhibit 1 ("Settlement Plan"), which provides for a nine-member school committee, with one member to be elected at-large and eight members from single-member districts, three of which are comprised of an Hispanic majority in total population and voting age population.
- The Chelsea City Council will approve the Settlement Plan no later than October 27, 2003, and, in accordance with the Massachusetts General Laws, immediately send a home-rule petition containing the Settlement Plan to the state legislature for approval. The City has committed to the United States that it will employ all of its power to facilitate the adoption of the home-rule petition by the state legislature.
- If it is not feasible, despite the best efforts of city officials, to conduct the 2003 Chelsea School Committee primary and general elections utilizing the four districts depicted in the Settlement Plan, the City of Chelsea will petition the state legislature to hold a special School Committee election on November 2, 2004. The nine School Committee members elected that day using the Settlement Plan districts will each serve a one-year term. Plans for the special election will be included in the home-rule petition sent to the state legislature subsequent to the vote on October 27, 2003.
- The city will conduct any future redistricting with regard to the Chelsea School Committee in a manner consistent with federal law, including Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 1973.
- The United States agrees to refrain from filing a lawsuit against the City of Chelsea or the Chelsea School Committee to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, provided that the City is in compliance with the terms of this Memorandum of Understanding and that the 8-district, one at-large plan submitted to the state legislature is approved and implemented by March 31, 2004.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CITY OF CHELSEA
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA JAY ASH
Assistant Attorney General City Manager
Civil Rights Division
JOSEPH D. RICH JAY ASH
GILDA R. DANIELS City Manager
EDWARD S. KEEFE Chelsea City Hall
R. TAMAR HAGLER 500 Broadway
United States Dept. of Justice Chelsea, MA 02150
Civil Rights Division (617) 889-8301
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Voting Section, 1800 G APPROVED AS TO FORM
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 305-4207 ________/s/________________
Deputy City Manager/