MALDEF DEMANDS THAT THE CITY OF PLACENTIA CHANGE ITS UNLAWFUL AT-LARGE CITY COUNCIL ELECTION SYSTEM
By-District Elections Demanded After Investigation of Demographic, Electoral Data
December 11, 2015
PLACENTIA, CA - Today, MALDEF sent a letter to the City of Placentia, demanding that it convert its at-large elections system to a district-based system that affords Latino voters an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Placentia City Council, in accordance with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 ("CVRA"). Placentia's population is 36% Latino, but there are currently no Latino members on the five-seat council, and there has been only one Latino councilmember in the last two decades. Placentia's at-large election system has prevented Latinos from being fairly represented on the city council. MALDEF demands the system be changed to a district-based system.
"No city can thrive while disenfranchising such a significant proportion of its people," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Transitioning to district elections would not only comply with the law but contribute to a brighter future for Placentia."
MALDEF conducted an investigation after receiving complaints from Latino citizens and voters of Placentia that its at-large election system prevents Latino voters from electing candidates to the city council. MALDEF's investigation concluded that Placentia's at-large system is unlawful, and has resulted in severe underrepresentation of Latino residents and voters of Placentia.
"This action simply serves to enhance representation and makes elected officials more responsive to the needs of residents," said California LULAC State Director Dave Rodriguez. "We fully support this action by the legal voice of our community."
"Without districts to enfranchise Latinos in Placentia, the city council is beholden only to the majority in making important decisions that affect everyone in the city," said Matthew J. Barragan, Staff Attorney at MALDEF.
The CVRA states that "[A]n at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election." Based on an investigation that also reviewed election returns, demographic information, and Spanish-surname analysis of votes cast by precinct, MALDEF concluded that the lack of success of Latino candidates results from racially polarized voting in Placentia's elections. Placentia's at-large election system violates the CVRA and must be changed to a district election system.
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 equitable 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.
A copy of the letter can be viewed 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.