LOS ANGELES – Today, a federal judge dismissed the California Attorney General from a lawsuit that sought to overturn the City of Poway’s election system and challenged the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The ruling comes in response to the California Attorney General’s motion to dismiss a case filed in November 2017 by Don Higginson, a former Poway mayor, who sued the city and the State of California alleging the move and CRVA are unlawful and result in racial gerrymandering. His lawsuit was filed just one month after 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.
In June 2018, a federal court of appeals allowed MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Law Office of Joaquin G. Avila to intervene in the case on behalf of several voters who seek to defend their access to political representation as required by the CVRA.
The CVRA has successfully addressed concerns that at-large voting systems too often dilute the voting strength of minority groups. By contrast, district-based systems allow under-represented groups to elect representatives of their choice from their own communities.
In his ruling today, Judge William Q. Hayes of United States District Court for the Southern District of California held that Higginson’s allegations, “accepted as true, with reasonable inferences drawn in his favor, do not state a racial gerrymandering claim subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.
In addition, the judge ordered Higginson to file an amended complaint or show cause why the entire lawsuit should not be dismissed as to the City of Poway and groups that intervened to defend the lawsuit.
Please attribute the following statement on today’s ruling to Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF:
“Today, the district court correctly dismissed the state Attorney General from this wholly concocted and preposterous lawsuit. The court appropriately distinguished California’s attempt to remedy and prevent racial discrimination in voting from racial discrimination itself. The Orwellian opposite – that remedying discrimination is as unlawful as discrimination itself – has no place in a rational constitutional law, particularly when it would operate to embed systems, like at-large elections, that prop up the ongoing privilege of one segment of the population, to the exclusion of others. The California Voting Rights Act reacts to racially-polarized voting patterns, which are a strong indicator of racial division and of the great potential for ignoring the rights and needs of minority residents, by taking pro-active steps to address these dangers. The wisdom of prevention and early cure is not unconstitutional, but epitomizes the central role of states under our federal system. We look forward to the dismissal of the entirety of the case in the near future.”
Read the ruling HERE