Judgment Issued in California Voting Rights Act Lawsuit
February 15, 2019
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Judgment was issued today, February 15, 2019, in the case of Pico Neighborhood Association, et al. v. City of Santa Monica. Adopting the judgment proposed by the plaintiffs, the court sustained claims that the City’s at-large election system violated the California Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution. The court further 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 and that the City hold a special election on July 2, 2019, for all seven seats on the Santa Monica City Council using this new district map.
Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., from Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, one of the lawyers representing the City, said:
“The court’s final ruling will actually hurt minority voting rights. The evidence at trial clearly demonstrated that moving to a district system in Santa Monica will dilute the voting power of Latinos and other minorities citywide. Recent studies have also shown that in most instances, California cities that have transitioned to district elections have seen no appreciable increase in the number of seats held by minorities.
The final ruling is wrong in other respects as well – it rubber stamps the plaintiffs’ misguided and unsupported view of the law, ignores the history of Santa Monica’s election system and the success of minority-preferred candidates in that system, deprives the electorate of any public process for the districts drawn, and violates the federal and California Constitutions.
As we have said from the outset, this case presents significant legal issues of first impression that California’s appellate courts will need to resolve. The City is now considering all options, including an appeal.”