A state law allowing voters to challenge at-large elections systems on the basis that they dilute the strength of minority voters will stand, after the California Supreme Court declined to review the case Wednesday.
The high court's refusal to hear the case leaves intact an appeals court ruling that upheld the 2001 California Voting Rights Act.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights sued the city of Modesto in 2004 on behalf of Hispanic voters there, charging that electing city council members to at-large seats instead of from districts diminished the strength of their votes. Though the city is one-quarter Hispanic, just one Hispanic has been elected to Modesto's five-member city council since 1911.
So what does this mean for municipal elections in California? Follow me down below for more...
(Cross-posted at Calitics)
So what does this mean for local elections? Chris Prevatt weighs in with an Orange County perspective at The Liberal OC:
This could have impact in OC. In Garden Grove for example there is no Latino representation on the City Council, but an over representation of Vietnamese elected officials. Part of the problem is the amount of money required to successfully run for Council in a city wide election. District level elections would enhance direct representation for all areas of a city, not just those where the most affluent people live.
The similar dynamic occurs in cities where candidates are chosen to represent wards but elected city-wide. This appears to be the case in Santa Ana where we have an entirely Latino City Council in a very demographically diverse city. This is partly due to the reality that in a city with a clear majority of one ethnicity, money isn’t the only thing that has an impact.
Well, Garden Grove may very well have a problem if this law remains upheld. Although the population is nearly evenly split among Latinos, whites, and Asian-Americans, there are no Latinos on the city council. So if the 2001 California Voting Rights Act remains upheld, what does this mean for Garden Grove? Let's look at what the law says:
[I]f it is shown that racially polarized voting occurs in elections for members of the governing body of the political subdivision or in elections incorporating other electoral choices by the voters of the political subdivision...
[T]he court shall implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections, that are tailored to remedy the violation.
So perhaps, we will see more lawsuits like this one against Modesto. But will this be a true remedy for "diluting of strength of minority voters" and "racially polarized voting"? What do you think about this?