The Coalition of Latino Residents and Neighborhood Groups filed a lawsuit today against the City of Santa Monica, announced Zoe Muntaner from Diversity Matters. The suit challenges the "At-Large Election System" in Santa Monica.
Plaintiffs Claim At Large Elections Violate the California Voting Rights Act, Muntaner said.
Four months after minority residents notified the City of Santa Monica that its at-large system of electing its City Council violates the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”), and having received no response from the City, a coalition of Latino residents and neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court today, demanding an end to Santa Monica’s racially-discriminatory election system, according to Muntaner.
The lawsuit was brought by the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA), Maria Loya – a Latina activist and resident of Santa Monica, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS).
“As a mother, former city council candidate and resident of the Pico Neighborhood, I want to ensure that future elections are fair. The current at-large election system is illegal and has led to a lack of representation in local government, which in turn has led to neglect of our community. All residents and every neighborhood can benefit from a neighborhood-centered approach to representative democracy,” Loya is quoted as stating.
Loya ran for City Council in 2004, and although she was overwhelmingly preferred by Latino voters, she placed 7th in a crowded field of 16 candidates for three seats.
“Aside from providing residents more fairness in their elections, district elections can decrease the influence of special interests and increase the influence of residents over what happens in their neighborhoods,” added Cris McCleod, Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association.
Historically marginalized communities have used the CVRA to gain representation in municipal governments across the State.
“In the 14 years since the CVRA was enacted, it has brought fair elections to more than 200 cities, counties and school districts. In the case of Santa Monica not only do the at-large elections violate the CVRA, they violate the California Constitution as well because they were adopted with the purpose of disenfranchising racial minorities,” explained attorney Kevin Shenkman who represents the Plaintiffs.
“Our City leaders have an opportunity to bring justice to one of our City’s darkest moments, when people of color were deliberately disenfranchised. I hope that one day every resident and every neighborhood is represented in our government. Residents deserve equal representation, a stronger democracy and an electoral system that increases the influence of residents and decreases the influence of big donors,“ stated School Board Member and Pico Neighborhood resident Oscar de la Torre.