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For the third straight year, a study of Hispanic representation in Washington state’s politics finds Latinos are underrepresented. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, “In towns such as Toppenish, Wapato and Walla Walla, Latinos have considerably less influence in local politics and policy-making although in some places Latinos outnumber whites.” The study, “The State of the State for Washington Latinos,” was carried out by researchers at Whitman University.
Latinos now account for 10% of the state’s population, but only 2% of Washington’s state legislators are Hispanic.
Latino Washingtonians are especially concentrated in the central part of the state, an agricultural region. At the 2000 Census, Adams and Franklin counties had over 45 percent Hispanic population, Yakima and Grant counties over 30 percent. The Whitman research team found “a ‘pressing need’ for changes in the way school boards are elected in Toppenish and Wapato, where at-large voting results in under-representation of Latinos.” Students in Pasco, Washington, have challenged the lack of bilingual ballots as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.