The Eastpointe City Council met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss how to respond to a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit filed against the Detroit suburb last week that claims the city’s at-large council election system, in place since 1929, “dilutes the voting strength of black citizens, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
DOJ wants to split the city into four single-member districts, with one drawn to create a black-majority district. The change would require voters to approve an amendment to the city charter.
Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane, who is named in the federal lawsuit along with the council, has said the city’s black residents have not formally expressed concerns, and shifting to district voting could require spending as much as $50,000 to change polling precincts, register new voters and issue new voting cards.
But fighting the DOJ lawsuit in court could cost Eastpointe taxpayers a million dollars.
Reaction from residents was mixed, and council members and the city’s attorney say they want DOJ to provide more specific information about the allegations. The city has 60 days to file a response.