March 2, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Voting Rights Suit Vs. City Underway, Challengers Drop out of Council Race

Future of Santa Monca’s at-large election system in question. 

By Sam Catanzaro

A coalition of voting rights advocates has taken the City of Santa Monica to court, claiming the City’s at-large election system dilutes the Latino vote in City Council elections and is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.

The outcome of this ongoing voting rights lawsuit, Pico Neighborhood Association et al. v. City of Santa Monica, not only will have a lasting impact on the future of elections in the City but has already laid its mark on the upcoming 2018 elections by causing two City Council two candidates to end their bid for office.

Kate Bransfield and Armen Melkonians, co-founders of the Facebook page “Residocracy,” announced last weekend that they were dropping out of the race for City Council. This decision came just weeks after both Bransfield and Melkonians gathered signatures and pulled that papers to officially launch their respective bids for a seat on City Council. In a post on “Residocracy” Bransfield and Melkonians cited uncertainty surrounding the election as the driving force behind their decision.

“Our decision to not enter the race at this time is based on the uncertainty of the at-large election system for the November 2018 City Council race,” Bransfield and Melkonians wrote.

If the judge presiding over the case, Judge Yvette Palazuelos, rules in the plaintiffs’ favor and states that Santa Monica’s at-large election system dilutes the Latino vote, an injunction or delay could be placed on the election until the City develops a district-based system. Given the chance the election may not occur, Bransfield and Melkonians did not want to invest the time and resources required to mount a successful bid for a seat on Santa Monica City Council.

“On the strong likelihood that the CVRA [California Voting Rights Act] lawsuit will win and the November election will be cancelled, we cannot in good conscience ask for the tremendous level of support and hard work from our Residocracy volunteers that will be required and may be in vain,” Bransfield and Melkonians wrote.

The case is being heard at Los Angeles Superior Court’s Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Photo: Courtesy

The plaintiffs, composed of the Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, led by attorney Milton C. Grimes of the Law Offices of Milton C. Grimes, argue that the adoption of Santa Monica’s at-large election system in 1946 was intended to prevent non-Anglo Santa Monicans from winning elections and contend that this effect still exists today.

“The City of Santa Monica’s at-large method of election for electing members to its City Council prevents Latino residents from electing candidates of their choice or influencing the outcome of Santa Monica’s City Council elections,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The suit contends that since the adoption of the City of Santa Monica’s at-large election system in 1946, only one Latino candidate has won an election for City Council and that this candidate, City Councilmember Tony Vazquez, was not a resident of the heavily Latino populated Pico neighborhood.

The City’s defense, led by Gibson, Dunn & Crutch, a global law firm who has represented companies including Apple, Inc., Chevron and Walmart in the past and individuals including Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Christie, counter by saying that Latino Councilmember Tony Vazquez is one out of seven councilmembers. This makes City Council 14.3 percent Latino, which is slightly greater than the 13.1 percent of Santa Monica’s 89,736 residents who are Hispanic or Latino.

A coalition of voting rights advocates have taken the City of Santa Monica to court, claiming the City’s at-large elections dilute the Latino vote. Photo: Jennifer Eden.

Defense attorneys further argue that districts would not enhance Latino voting power, to begin with.

“There is no alternative that will enhance Latino voting power,” the defense wrote in their opening statement presentation. “In the absence of vote dilution, imposition of districts would amount to racial gerrymandering without a compelling state interest.”

In court this week, the plaintiffs pointed to a poll conducted by Johnathan Brown, a political pollster with Sextant Strategies & Research, showing that 54 percent of voters surveyed in Santa Monica supported adopting district-based elections. According to the poll, 30 percent opposed district elections and 16 percent had no opinion.

Defense attorney Michelle Marycott, however, argued that Brown’s poll questions were intended to sway survey subjects to support the plaintiff’s point of view. During cross-examination of the pollster, Maryott highlighted a segment of one of the survey questions which reads “Some who want to change to by-district voting say the current citywide election dilute the voices of minority voters.”

After reading this, Maryott asked Brown if he saw the underlying bias in this question. Brown acknowledged that there was bias in the question due to the nature of the question and the survey.

“These are portrayed as reasons why people would support a change or oppose a change. They are by their nature intended to be persuasive,” Brown said.

The trial, which may last up to six weeks, will continue again on Monday.

 

in News
Related Posts

Construction Alert: Topanga Canyon Boulevard Faces Nightly Closures Starting March 4

March 1, 2024

March 1, 2024

Caltrans Announces 18-Mile Project Spanning Chatsworth to PCH Commuters in the Los Angeles area should prepare for significant delays as...

Film Review: Nyad

February 29, 2024

February 29, 2024

FILM REVIEWNYADRated PG-13121 MinutesReleased November 3rdOscar Nominations: Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress “I failed many times, but I can...

Security Officers Being Deployed at Big Blue Bus Stations and Routes

February 29, 2024

February 29, 2024

The Guards will be provided by a firm with other security contracts with the city of Santa Monica  By Zach...

Leap Day Brings Once-in-Four-Year Deals at Popular Restaurants All Day Long

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’, and More Roll Out Special Offers to Mark the Occasion Leap Day, that rare additional day occurring...

Sweet Lady Jane’s Social Media Tease Continues As Locations Sport Hiring Notices

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

Mysterious Posts Leave Fans Eager for the Return, But Questions Linger By Dolores Quintana After resurfacing on social media, the...

Upcoming Ice Cream Shop on Montana Ave. Will Serve Multitude of Vegan Flavors

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

The Company Has Come a Long Way Since Its Humble Beginnings as a New York City Food Truck By Zach...

(Video) Pro-Palestine Protest at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

Protesters were there to protest the arrival of U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi Counter-protesters drove by in a car. @smmirrornews Pro-Palestine...

(Video) Restaurants Replace Glass Front Doors After Late Night Robbery Spree in Del Ray

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

Seven restaurants and small businesses in Del Rey and Venice, including Nick the Greek and Dudley Market, were robbed. Council...

SMMUSD Appoints New Asst. Superintendent of Education Services

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Dr. Williamson Will Assume Her Role on March 8, Bringing 17 Years of Education Experience In a special board meeting...

Hollywood Royalty to Shine at 96th Oscars: First Wave of Star-Studded Presenter Lineup Unveiled

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Incredible Lineup of Actors and Previous Oscar Winners Announced Executive producer and showrunner Raj Kapoor, along with executive producers Molly...

Vote Smart, Vote Early: Streamlining Your 2024 Presidential Primary Experience in L.A. County

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Skip the Lines and Save Time – Your Guide to Early Voting Options  In preparation for the upcoming 2024 Presidential...

Iconic Venice Beach Sculpture and Landmark to be Removed, Returned to Artist’s Property

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Since the Money, Effort or Desire to Purchase the Piece Appears to Not Be There, the Artist Wants It Back...

(Video) Heartfelt candlelight vigils in Westchester and West Hollywood for Nex Benedict

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

The non-binary 16 year old student with Choctaw ancestry died in Owasso, Oklahoma after being beaten by three older high...

Sweet Lady Jane Sparks Hope of Return – Popular Bakery Hints at Reopening Across LA

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

After Abrupt Closures, Beloved Bakery Hints at a Comeback, Leaving Fans Intrigued  Sweet Lady Jane, a Los Angeles cake bakery...

Waymo’s LA Expansion Hits Roadblock: CPUC Temporarily Halts Self-Driving Company’s Plans

February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024

California Public Utilities Commission suspends Waymo’s service expansion for 120 days. California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has put a temporary...