LOS ANGELES – MALDEF sent a letter to New Haven Unified School District (NHUSD) officials today warning that the district’s at-large system of electing board members violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA).

In the letter, sent to Sharan Takhar Kaur, president of the NHUSD Board of Education, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) says the district’s current at-large system dilutes Latino voting strength and prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice.

U.S. Census figures show that Latinos comprise approximately 21 percent of the citizen voting-age population in the district. However, as MALDEF’s letter states, “it appears that none of the five current Board Members is Latino and that historically Latinos have been underrepresented on the NHUSD Board of Education.”

“When a school district fails to ensure that elections serve all voters equally, it undermines the educational mission as well as democracy,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.  “Fixing the district’s flawed elections system would provide an important civics lesson to NHUSD students, as well as bolster democratic governance.”

Under the CVRA, local jurisdictions, including school districts, that show patterns of racially polarized voting that curtail a minority group’s ability to elect any of its preferred candidates must switch from at-large elections, in which members are elected by all voters, to a district-based election system where voters who live in each district select the candidate of their choice.

“The interests of the entire community, including the students of NHUSD, are best served by complying with the CVRA and by converting to a district-based election system that assures fair and democratic elections in NHUSD,” said Tanya G. Pellegrini, MALDEF staff attorney.

The NHUSD has an enrollment of about 12,000 students. It is located in Alameda County.

Read MALDEF’s Letter HERE.