Thursday, April 11, 2013
MALDEF Says It Will Sue School District Over Rights
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said yesterday it has sued a local school system to force district elections under the California Voting Rights Act.
The national group said it would join with the firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho in the suit against the ABC Unified School District.
The district includes Artesia, Cerritos, and Hawaiian Gardens and extends into Lakewood, Long Beach, and Norwalk, MALDEF explained in a release, and “currently uses an at-large method to elect its Board of Trustees, which has denied Latino residents the opportunity to elect Board Members of their choice for more than fifteen years.”
MALDEF said 23 percent of the current voting-age population within ABC USD is Latino, yet none of the seven board members is Latino. In fact, the group said, all seven live in Cerritos, leaving the rest of the district without representation.
This “vote dilution…has prevented Latinos from electing candidates of their choice or influencing the outcome of Board elections,” MALDEF said, and is remediable under the CVRA. “Moreover, patterns of racially polarized voting in ABC USD elections have been mobilization of Latino voting power, and have allowed the non-Latino super-majority to overcome Latino voting strength.”
Both the CVRA and the federal Voting Rights Act provide remedies for racially polarized voting of the type alleged to occur in the ABC district.
But the CVRA is friendlier to plaintiffs, who do not have to prove that the disfavored minority lives in a geographically compact area or that the defendant or its officials have a discriminatory animus.
One of the plaintiffs, Olga Rios, said she attended ABCUSD schools for her entire K-12 education and has two children in the district, and applied for an appointment to fill a board vacancy after a then-member was elected to the Cerritos City Council two years ago.
But after a dozen people were interviewed, included her, the district “decided not to appoint anybody to the position until the next election, despite Olga’s exceptional credentials in education, including a Master’s Degree in education from Harvard University,” MALDEF said in its statement.
Rios said in a prepared statement:
“As much as we all like to dream that we now live in a colorblind society, it has been clear to my community for some time now that the ABC school district’s at-large method of election prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of our choice.”
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company