Josh RultenbergJan 3, 2018, 1:42 pm

Expert presents options to correct alleged voting discrimination in Port Chester

Village has been facing allegations of bias against Hispanic voters

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PORT CHESTER — The issue of voter discrimination against Hispanic voters has been one Port Chester has been dealing with since one of its residents sued the village in 2001. But on Tuesday, the village's board of trustees listened to how the issue might be corrected from Dr. Lisa Handley, an expert they hired back in November.

Mayor Richard Falanka said he thought the presentation was excellent, but realized he and the trustees have a great deal of work to do.

"We want to come up with a voting system that works for the Village of Port Chester...a system that exactly represents Port Chester’s community," Mayor Falanka said.

The village must come up with a new way to elect its six board members and mayor before its next election in March 2019 following a 2010 settlement with the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

When asked about voter discrimination in Port Chester, Mayor Falanka responded "I don't believe that's happening here in Port Chester."

According to a recent survey, Port Chester has a population near 30,000 and the majority is Hispanic. However, most are not eligible to vote. Yet, the community had not had a Hispanic trustee or mayor until 2010 during what was a heavily scrutinized election.

Meanwhile, a local grassroots organization called Sustainable Port Chester Alliance rallied outside village hall Tuesday night asking for transparency in the process.

Spokeswoman Joan Grangenois-Thomas said in a statement:

"For years, minorities in this community have been disenfranchised from full participation in the electoral process. Finding a new voting method is not just about the ability of electing one group's candidate of choice, it is also about dismantling the power structure that kept that disenfranchisement in place. To this day, with few exceptions almost all elected or appointed officials live in the northern most, whitest area of the village. We need a voting method that creates a truly representative governing body."

The village’s attorney said a final decision from the board could come in the spring or summer. A public referendum may be needed before a vote takes place as well.

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