February 23, 2018

(Los Angeles, CA) - A federal court judge dismissed a lawsuit today that sought to overturn the City of Poway’s election system and challenged the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

In September, Poway, located in San Diego County, moved from an at-large election system in which all voters choose all council members, to smaller neighborhood districts in which residents elect their own representative. City officials said they made the change fearing they would be sued for violating the CVRA. A month later, Don Higginson, a former Poway mayor, sued the city and the State of California alleging the move and CRVA are unlawful.

In his ruling today, Judge William Q. Hayes of United States District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that Mr. Higginson had no grounds to sue and dismissed the case. With the issue declared moot, Judge Hayes also dismissed a motion filed by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Law Office of Joaquin G. Avila to intervene on behalf of several residents of Poway who sought defend their access to political representation as required by the CVRA.

Please attribute the following statement to Denise M. Hulett, MALDEF National senior counsel:

“We commend the court’s decision. Today’s ruling recognizes that a general dissatisfaction with the protections afforded by civil rights statutes is not enough to claim a redressable injury in court. The CVRA was created because at-large election systems all too often deny minority community members and others access to meaningful representation by allowing the majority vote to override minority voters’ preferred candidate. The court held that Mr. Higginson has not been injured simply by virtue of the existence of the statute. We continue to stand by in support of the CVRA and will fight against any attempts to attack this landmark civil rights law.”

Read the judge’s ruling 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:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund