LOS ANGELES – MALDEF sent a letter to Union City officials today warning that the city’s at-large system of electing the city council and mayor violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA).

In the letter, sent to Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci, MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) says the city’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 20% of the citizen voting-age population in Union City. Yet, as MALDEF’s letter states, since at least 2004, only two Latino candidates have served on the city council.

“We look forward to working with Union City to implement a fairer election system that complies with state law,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel.

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

“Union City residents deserve a local government that is inclusive of all communities, and the current at-large election system fails to serve the needs of the Latino community.  Conversion to a by-district election system will ensure that all voices in the city are heard,” said Tanya G. Pellegrini, MALDEF Staff Attorney.

Union City is located in Alameda County, about 20 miles south of Oakland.

Read MALDEF’s letter