Court to rule on future of at-large elections in Santa Monica
By Sam Catanzaro
The California Supreme Court will determine the future of elections in Santa Monica after taking up a voting rights case alleging the current at-large system dilutes the Latino vote.
The case filed by plaintiffs Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools alleges that Santa Monica’s at-large election system dilutes Latino voting power in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and discriminates against Latino voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.
In a ruling released February 15, 2019, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos ordered that all future elections for seats on the Santa Monica City Council be based on a seven-district map drawn by an expert for the plaintiffs, including a 30 percent Latino district. The City then appealed this decision.
On July 9 2020, a three-judge panel from the California 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the city saying that Latinos, who account for 14 percent of Santa Monica’s electorate, lack the numbers to win an election in the 30 percent Latino district ordered by Judge Palazuelos.
After the Appeals Court rejected a petition for a hearing, the plaintiffs filed their case with the California Supreme Court.
On October 21 the Supreme Court took up the case, depublishing the Appellate Court ruling.
“The petition for review is granted. The parties are ordered to brief the following issue: What must a plaintiff prove in order to establish vote dilution under the California Voting Rights Act? On the Court’s own motion, the Court of Appeal’s Opinion is ordered depublished,” the California Supreme Court wrote in taking up the case.
The Supreme Court has not yet announced a timeline for the case.