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Eastpointe seeks public input on plan to give minorities more of an opportunity to get elected

someone writing on a ballot
Michael Dorausch
Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Not as many people vote in gubernatorial election years compared to Presidential election years.

The U.S. Justice Department says Eastpointe’s system of electing council members to represent the entire city, at-large as opposed to a certain ward or neighborhood, has resulted in violations of the Voting Rights Act.

City Manager Steve Duchane says local leaders support inclusion and diversity, but disagree with the allegations.

“I think we’re saddened. I think it’s a bit repulsive to be talking about black, white the way we are in this justice department letter and in our conversations with them,” Duchane said.

However, he says the city can’t afford to fight the federal government.

“It really doesn’t particularly matter whether we want to (change the system for electing local leaders) or not. It is clear the best avenue we have, considering money and time given to us, is to negotiate the best result we can,” Duchane said.

The city has until January 9 to come up with a plan or DOJ plans to file a complaint. A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment.

Eastpointe will host two hearings before then to get public input, on December 20 and January 3.

Normally a change to the city charter would need voter approval.

In 2000, more than 90% of Eastpointe residents were white. A decade later, about 65% were white.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.