The majority of Lowell voters cast ballots in support of changing the city's electoral system from all at-large city councilors to a hybrid system with eight district councilors and three at-large councilors, according to unofficial results from the city's municipal election Tuesday.

Nearly 60 percent of voters were in favor of the hybrid system, with 40 percent opposing.

On a separate ballot question, 51 percent of voters disapproved of a proposal to transition to ranked-choice voting. Under this system, Lowell residents would rank their favorite candidates in order. Votes would be tallied in a process of elimination where first-choice votes are counted first, second-choice votes counted next, and so-on.

Both ballot questions are part of a non-binding referendum, and the final decision about which of these two electoral systems to adopt will be made by Lowell’s current City Council by early December. The new system will go into effect in 2021.

The ranked-choice voting option "was too complex, even for people who vote year after year," said Sovanna Pouv, executive director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association.

Lowell is changing its electoral system because of a 2017 federal voting rights lawsuit that was filed by a coalition of Asian-American and Latino residents. The plaintiffs contended that the current system, where all city council members are elected city-wide, dilutes the minority community’s voting power. They argue that under the current system, white voters can vote as a bloc and ensure white candidates are elected to at-large seats. A district-based or ranked-choice system, advocates argue, would create more opportunities for elected representation to reflect the local population.

In Lowell, the population is almost half non-white. However, only a handful of non-whites have ever been elected to the City Council or the School Committee.

The city of Lowell and the plaintiffs reached a settlement in May requiring that Lowell adopt one of six options for revising the electoral system. The current City Council then narrowed it to the two options, which were before voters on Tuesday’s ballot.

Tuesday's election was the last time Lowell residents will vote under the current system of all at-large councilors. Two of the nine City Councilors elected Tuesday are from the Cambodian-American community, while the others all identify as white.

"That's history in the making right there," said Pouv. "Lowell has never had two Cambodians at the same time. This is huge."

Pouv said he's seen the Cambodian community get more engaged and active. "When I went to vote today, there were a lot of people from the Cambodian community at the polling stations," he said. "It felt really good. It felt great."

None of the School Committee members elected Tuesday are from minority communities.