EASTVALE, CA – Today, MALDEF and the law firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian, & Ho sent a letter to the Mayor of Eastvale and the Eastvale City Council, demanding that the system for electing members to the city council be changed to comply with the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The City currently elects council members using an at-large method, which has denied Latino residents the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the City Council. MALDEF and Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian, & Ho demand that the City convert to a by-district election system.
“Several years after its incorporation, the City of Eastvale has the opportunity to make an early course correction in response to the data showing exclusion,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “District elections will ensure fair representation of everyone in the city, and prevent some of the problems faced by older cities that fail to react to evidence of the need for a change in elections system.”
MALDEF conducted an investigation after receiving complaints from Latino citizens and voters in the City that its at-large election system prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of choice to the city council. According to U.S. Census data, Latinos constitute 40 percent of the total population in Eastvale, and 35 percent of the Citizen Voting Age population, yet there has not been a single Latino city councilmember since the incorporation of Eastvale.
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.” MALDEF reviewed election returns and demographic information, and concluded that the lack of success of Latino voters in electing candidates of their choice results from persistent racially-polarized voting in the electorate.
The letter requests that the City of Eastvale respond by April 30, 2016. If the response is unsatisfactory, MALDEF and its clients will seek a judicial order changing the election system from at-large to by-district, along with other relief provided for in the CVRA, including the collect of costs and attorneys’ fees.
Mike Baller, Of Counsel with Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, said, “The California Voting Rights Act serves the interests of both more direct representation of all residents in a democratic system and a fair chance for minority voters to elect candidates responsive to their particular concerns. Eastvale’s election system ill-serves those interests, and changing it to a district election system will improve the quality of representation for not only Latinos but all of the city’s residents.”
“We are asking Eastvale to convert to district-based elections to ensure that all communities in the city, including the Latino community, have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice who are accountable to them,” said Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “Eastvale will thrive when elections in the city are fair and democratic.”
The right to vote is fundamental to democracy in the U.S. and must be protected for all citizens, regardless of race. MALDEF supports equal representation for all communities across the country.
A copy of the letter is available here.