As part of Lowell's municipal elections on Tuesday, residents will vote on a new system for electing their city councilors and School Committee members. In the vote, which is non-binding and meant to gauge residents' preferences, voters will choose between two systems: ranked-choice voting or a hybrid system with eight district councilors and three at-large councilors.

The current City Council will make the final decision and announce the new system by early December. It will go into effect in 2021.

The vote comes after a coalition of Latino and Asian-American residents of Lowellsued the city in 2017, arguing that the current system of all city-wide, at-large city councilors and no district councilors does not adequately represent minority communities. The lawsuit stated that almost half of the city's residents are non-white, yet very few non-white candidates have ever been elected. The city agreed to change its electoral system in a settlement reached with the plaintiffs in May.

Read more: Lowell Will Change Its System For Electing City Council, School Committee

An Oct. 21 report by the Tufts University-based research group Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group analyzed both options before Lowell voters and found that ranked-choice voting has "much stronger prospects for minority representation" compared to the hybrid system.

“Under RCV [ranked-choice voting], we predict 2 − 4 out of 9 POC [person of color]-preferred candidates on the City Council (22 − 44%), while under the Hybrid system we predict only 1 − 2 out of 11 (9 − 18%),” they state in the report, which used computer modeling to predict outcomes under both systems.

In a ranked-choice voting system, the City Council is still be made up of all at-large councilors. However, voters get to rank some or all of the candidates in order of preference. Then, the first-choice votes are tallied. The candidate with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to the candidate that the voter ranked as their next choice. This continues in successive rounds until the top candidates are selected for the City Council's seats.

Cambridge uses ranked-choice voting in their City Council and School Committee elections. Amherst residents voted in 2018 to switch to a ranked-choice voting system, which will go into effect in 2021.

Read more: A Voter’s Guide To Boston’s 2019 City Council Elections

The Lowell Sun's editorial board endorsed the hybrid system in an editorial published last week. This is similar to the system used in Boston and elsewhere around the Commonwealth.

“We thought the intent of this lawsuit was to increase voter participation – especially among minorities. A complicated system like ranked-choice voting will ensure just the opposite,” the editorial states. “We agree with the majority of councilors who favor the district/at-large setup. It’s easier to understand and should encourage more minorities to run for office.”

According to the settlement reached between the plaintiffs and the City of Lowell earlier this year, under the hybrid system, two of the eight districts would be majority-minority. Further, the districts would be drawn by an independent expert approved by both parties.

However, Lowell City Councilor and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Kennedy said that it is possible that a white representative could be elected from the minority districts. He said he’s not sure much will change under a new system.

“I don't know that it's necessarily going to provide a difference,” Kennedy told WGBH News. “It kind of depends on who goes out to vote under the new system.”

The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, said he is not advocating for one system over another.

“We think both are good options,” said Sellstrom. “Both fully satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act. Both ensure there will be inclusion for communities of color.”

Sellstrom said the goal right now is to educate Lowell residents about the two options ahead of Tuesday's vote and let them decide which system works best for their city.

"It's exciting to see the community, and particularly communities of color, galvanized around this issue and really be having a good, old-fashioned civic debate about self-governance,” said Sellstrom.

Lowell is the only city in Massachusetts with a population of more than 100,000 people to still have an entirely at-large city council system. Now that Lowell’s system is in the process of changing, Lawyers for Civil Rights are focusing on other, smaller cities such as Everett.