Monday, July 2, 2012
ACLU Sues Anaheim, Alleges Racially Polarized Voting
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The ACLU of Southern California has sued the City of Anaheim, alleging that its at-large system for electing a mayor and council discriminates against he city’s large Latino population.
The action, filed Thursday in Orange Superior Court, asks for an order declaring the present system unlawful under the California Voting Rights Act, and requiring the city to replace it with district elections.
The CVRA is similar to its federal counterpart, but is more favorable to plaintiffs in that it does not require proof that the disfavored minority lives in a geographically compact area or that the city or its officials have a discriminatory animus.
The ACLU—which is handling the case along with the Oakland firm Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian, said the city has made it nearly impossible for Latinos, who make up more than one-third of the electorate, to be fairly represented on the city council. Anaheim city government is comprised of a four member city council and a mayor, but there are currently no Latinos on the city council, and only three Latino individuals have ever been elected to the city council in Anaheim’s history, the complaint noted.
Two Latinos were elected in 2002, the plaintiffs noted, but under unique circumstances. Both were ex-firefighters and received huge support from non-Latinos in the first elections held after the 9/11 attacks, but only one was re-elected, while the other was defeated despite huge Latino support.
The complaint recites a long history of anti-Latino discrimination in the city, dating back to the 1920s, when it was known as “Klanaheim” because a majority of its council members were known to belong to the Ku Klux Klan. Latinos were long segregated in the local public schools, the complaint notes, long after courts said the practice was unconstitutional.
“A recurring and central issue for the Latino community, a large concentration of which resides in central Anaheim, in close proximity to the heart of the tourism industry, is that the city council puts the needs of big business ahead of their concerns, sacrificing their quality of life in favor of revenues that are disproportionately spent outside of Latino neighborhoods, many of which are in dire need of the support,” the ACLU said in a press release. “Under the current system, Latinos have no voice in their city government who can represent and raise their concerns.”
The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction that would end at-large elections after this year’s.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company