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Voting Rights Act Cases

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

Office of the Assistant Attorney General

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. - MJB  

Washington, DC 20530

April 15, 2003

Kimberley Lord Driscoll, Esq.
Chelsea City Attorney
Chelsea City Hall
500 Broadway
Chelsea, MA 02150

Dear Ms. Driscoll:

This is to notify you that I have authorized the filing of a lawsuit against the City of Chelsea, alleging that the existing system for electing the members of the Chelsea School Committee violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1973. We will delay filing the complaint for a short time if the city is willing to negotiate a resolution of this matter through a consent decree that would be filed simultaneously with the complaint.

We have determined that the current at-large system of electing the school committee denies Hispanic voters an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice. According to the 2000 Census, Hispanic persons comprise 48 percent of the total population and 44 percent of the voting age population of the city. Our investigation of recent Chelsea School Committee elections under the at-large system reveals that racially polarized voting patterns prevail in those elections. In contests for the Chelsea School Committee, Hispanic persons consistently vote cohesively and white persons vote sufficiently as a bloc to usually defeat the Hispanic voters' preferred candidates. Although Hispanic persons compose 44 percent of the voting age population of the city, there are no Hispanic persons among the current seven school committee members, and only one Hispanic person has ever been elected to the Chelsea School Committee in the city's history.

The Hispanic population in Chelsea is sufficiently numerous and geographically compact such that it is possible to draw a single-member-district voting plan in which Hispanic persons would constitute a majority of the total population and voting age population in two out of seven districts. Moreover, other factors probative of a Section 2 violation are present in the city; it appears that Hispanic residents still bear the effects of past discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and housing.

We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve this matter through an amicable settlement rather than through costly and protracted litigation. I have asked Edward Keefe, an attorney in the Voting Section, to contact you to discuss this matter. If you have any questions, Mr. Keefe can be reached at (202) 305-4207.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Ralph F. Boyd, Jr.
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


Updated November 8, 2021