HOUSTON, TX – A federal judge today ruled that a lawsuit challenging changes to the City of Pasadena’s voting system will head to trial. U.S. District Court Judge Lee H. Rosenthal’s decision comes nearly two years after MALDEF first sued Pasadena on behalf of five Hispanic residents when city officials moved to replace the eight single-member voting districts with a hybrid system that includes two at-large seats. The lawsuit argues the new system seeks to dilute Hispanic voting strength.
“We look forward to going to trial and ultimately securing a fair redistricting plan for Pasadena,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF’s vice president of litigation and lead counsel in the case.
Pasadena’s Hispanic citizen voting age population has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing from 30.6% in 2000 to 43% in 2012, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey.
The current hybrid system, however, reduces Hispanic voting strength and impedes Hispanic voters’ ability to elect their candidates of choice and have a voice in how their city is governed, according to the lawsuit.
“Pasadena’s precipitous change to its city council elections will prove to be an expensive attempt to embed power with the establishment as the city population changes,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “Moreover, the upcoming trial will expose the injustice in the creation of unnecessary at-large seats on the council.”
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the federal Voting Rights Act that would likely have blocked Pasadena’s change in its election system. As a result, MALDEF’s Pasadena lawsuit is focused on violations of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the claim that Pasadena’s new election system intentionally discriminates against Latinos on the basis of race.