The author, Susan Soto Palmer, is a resident of Yakima, Washington, a community leader and a plaintiff in a recently-decided redistricting case that successfully sought to ensure that Latino voters in central Washington can have the opportunity to make their voices heard in state legislative elections.
My name is Susan Soto Palmer, and I live in the city of Yakima in Yakima County, Washington.
I spent the first 41 years of my life in South Texas, but I visited Yakima about 12 years ago and fell in love with the area. Mt. Adams — every time I see it, it takes my breath away, even to this day. And there was just something that felt like it was pulling me here. That's how I ended up here and chose to make Yakima my home.
Once I moved to Washington, I started getting involved in the community and that’s when I really started finding and connecting with my identity as a Hispanic Latina.
The city of Yakima kind of feels like a segregated place. On the west side of Yakima, we have wealthier, whiter communities that have better infrastructure and resources. The east side, where Latinos and other people of color tend to live, people have less access to resources and worse infrastructure. In fact, some places in Yakima County don’t even have street signs.
As I started getting involved in community activities and politics about 12 years ago, I realized that a lot of people are just so burdened with having to survive from day to day.
It’s hard to even have the time to think about politics. I didn't think about it when I was young — about how much power local politicians have over the infrastructure, over the quality of life, over resources that come into cities and counties and legislative districts.
And when I started realizing just how much that impacts each and every one of us, I said to myself: If I don't do this, who will?
Since, I’ve run for office twice. I’ve been involved with numerous nonprofit groups. I’ve gone to Olympia to lobby legislators for the Washington Voting Rights Act and other legislation. And I've also been involved in two redistricting lawsuits, one against the Yakima County, and one about the state legislative district that encompasses the Yakima Valley area to give Hispanic and Latino voters fair representation in the State Capitol, which we just won.
I got involved in lawsuits, campaigned, made phone calls, and went door-to-door because we need to see people finally realizing: ‘Hey, I'm not represented at that table. Why not?’
We want better. We want everybody to thrive. We can't get there if some of us are fighting just to be recognized. We need an opportunity to elect candidates of our choice in a fair and equitable manner and we've got to keep using our power so that we can make changes that will benefit all of us.