Wednesday, July 16, 2014
MALDEF Sues Bellflower, Says At-Large Elections for City Council Violate California Voting Rights Act
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has sued the City of Bellflower, claiming its at-large system of electing council members discriminates against minority voters.
The action was filed under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. The CVRA expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for minority groups in California to prove that their votes are being diluted in “at-large” elections.
Unlike the federal Voting Rights Act, the CVRA does not require plaintiffs to identify a specific geographic district where a minority is concentrated enough to establish a majority.
Bellflower consists of a population which is 52 percent Latino, and 37 percent of the citizen voting-age population is Latino, while 14 percent of that population, is African American, MALDEF said. Historically, there have been no Latino or African-American candidates who have won a seat on the council.
Bellflower, with a census population of a little under 77,000, uses an at-large method to elect its five council members, which MALDEF says denies Latino and African-American residents the opportunity to elect council members of their choice. MALDEF also alleges that non-minority candidates have resorted to discriminatory and racially polarizing campaign tactics, which have made it more difficult for minority candidates to obtain “crossover” non-minority votes, which are necessary to win election under the at-large system.
In its complaint, MALDEF seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against the city, contending that the effects of Bellflower’s at-large method of election of its council members has resulted in vote dilution for racial/ethnic minority residents.
The action was filed on behalf of MALDEF by the law firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, and the Law Offices of Robert Rubin. Bellflower City Attorney Joe Pannone, of the firm Aleshire and Wynder, did not return a MetNews phone call.
A city spokesperson said officials had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment, according to the Los Angeles Times website.
Other Southern California jurisdictions that have been sued under the CVRA include the cities of Palmdale and Anaheim and the ABC Unified School District.
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