MALDEF WARNS CITY OF ANAHEIM THAT IT RISKS LIABILITY FOR VIOLATION OF LATINO VOTING RIGHTS
Delaying Meaningful Remedy Violates Federal Law
December 3, 2015
LOS ANGELES, CA - MALDEF and the California League of United Latin American Citizens ("CA LULAC") today sent a letter to Anaheim, California Mayor Tom Tait warning that delaying the election in the only district designed to provide a voting rights remedy to Latino voters puts the city at risk for liability under the federal Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In response to a legal challenge to its previous at-large city council election system, Anaheim is converting to the election of council members by district. On November 17, 2015, the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 to exclude from the next election the only district where the majority of eligible voters are Latino. The district map resulted from years of litigation under the California Voting Rights Act, the subsequent settlement of that case and the passage of Ballot Measures L and M. The Advisory Committee of five retired Orange County Superior Court judges held numerous hearings and recommended the overall 6-district city council map that the Council adopted. The Advisory Committee’s Final Report to the Council noted that the majority Latino electorate in District 3 would give Latino voters an effective opportunity to elect a candidate of choice, as required by the federal Voting Rights Act.
At the November 17 meeting, every community member to speak urged the City Council to hold District 3 elections in the next municipal election – in November 2016. The Council nonetheless voted to deprive District 3's voters of the opportunity to elect a candidate of choice until November of 2018. MALDEF views the action as legally indefensible against a claim of intentional discrimination prohibited by federal statutory and constitutional voting rights law.
"There is no better demonstration of how insidious discrimination can be than the efforts of those in power to delay a meaningful remedy," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "We saw this in the aftermath of the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board, and we still see it today; Anaheim's decision to delay the election in District 3 is a regrettably familiar and ill-disguised example of entrenched resistance to justice and rectitude."
In the absence of a satisfactory response from the City at its December 8 meeting, MALDEF will consider litigation to address the violation of federal law. "The Council's actions are not just a matter of justice delayed. The Council has deprived Latino voters of the remedy they won in litigation, of the form of government they overwhelmingly voted for in Measure L, and of the equal opportunity they expected to exercise by casting a meaningful vote in the 2016 election," said Denise Hulett, MALDEF National Senior Counsel.
The right to vote is fundamental to the strength of our democracy and must be protected for all citizens across the U.S. MALDEF has continually fought for equal opportunity in elections systems for all communities throughout California, and will strive to protect the right to a political voice wherever it may be threatened.
MALDEF's letter to Mayor Tom Tait can be found here.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.