Court Issues Amended Tentative Decision in CVRA Trial
December 14, 2018
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – City Attorney Lane Dilg released the following statement in response to the court’s first amended tentative decision issued today in the case of Pico Neighborhood Association, et al., v. City of Santa Monica:
“We are pleased that the first amended tentative decision appears to reject the plaintiffs’ request to replace the City’s at-large election system – adopted by the voters in 1946 and twice affirmed by the voters at the polls – with a seven-district map drawn by the plaintiffs’ hired expert without opportunity for public input. The City continues to believe that the evidence at trial showed that its electoral system is fair and inclusive. Latino representation on the Santa Monica City Council exceeds the citizen voting age population in our community and Latino-preferred candidates have been elected to the Santa Monica City Council over seventy percent of the time under the current electoral system. We look forward to reviewing the statement of decision to be issued by the court, and we are pleased that the court appears to have affirmed that any district-based system imposed in Santa Monica will be drawn with a Pico Neighborhood district as set forth by the court but with public hearings and a full opportunity for community input with respect to other districts.”
About the Ruling
Today the court issued a first amended tentative decision in the case. The amended tentative ruling orders the City to cease holding City Council elections under the current at-large election system and requires that any future City Council elections be district-based and held in accordance with a map depicting a Pico Neighborhood district.
In April 2016, plaintiffs Pico Neighborhood Association, Maria Loya, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools filed a complaint in the California Superior Court alleging that Santa Monica’s at-large election system dilutes Latino/a voting power in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and discriminates against Latino/a voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.
Santa Monica has had at-large elections since 1915. The current at-large election system was adopted by the voters in 1946, with broad support from prominent minority members of the community. The
The City contends that evidence presented at trial did not support plaintiffs’ claims that a move to districts would generate better outcomes for Latino/a voters in Santa Monica. No district can be drawn in Santa Monica that has more than 30 percent Latino voters – far from a majority – and no court adjudicating a vote-dilution claim has ever ordered the creation of districts where the citizen-voting-age population of the relevant minority group in the purportedly remedial district would be this low. A district system would prevent Latino/a residents from organizing together across neighborhoods, as they can in the at-large system. In Santa Monica, approximately 2/3 of Latino/
On November 8, 2018, the court issued a tentative ruling for the plaintiffs. The court’s tentative ruling contained no explanation of the Court’s ruling. The City has requested a statement of decision explaining the basis for the tentative ruling, which the Court has ordered the plaintiffs to draft.
The City still hopes to convince the court to change its tentative decision and rule in the City’s favor, as plaintiffs’ claims lack merit and the evidence at trial demonstrates that Santa Monica’s at-large election system for City Council members is fair and inclusive and does not dilute Latino/a voting power.
Additional information about the case can be found here: www.santamonica.gov/Election-Litigation-PNA-V-Santa-Monica-FAQ