LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to consider a challenge to the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The High Court’s denial of certiorari brings an end to a federal lawsuit filed by the Project on Fair Representation, an organization led by right-wing financier Ed Blum, on behalf of a former mayor who alleged that the CVRA is unlawful and results in racial gerrymandering.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice — ALC), and the Law Office of Molly P. Matter intervened in the case in June 2018 on behalf of several voters who sought to defend their access to political representation as required by the CVRA.
“This rejection of the attempted appeal — without any written opposition from defendants or intervenors — sends a strong message to those who seek to return to a regime where at-large boards or councils could simply ignore the interests of significant minority groups,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “The CVRA is important, protective legislation to ensure fair representation in local California government; all converted jurisdictions should prepare to draw new and fair district lines following the release of 2020 Census data.”
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.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to deny review of our victories in the lower courts is an important win for California voters who have historically been disenfranchised,” noted Glenn Katon, Litigation Director at Advancing Justice — ALC.
The case involved a 2017 lawsuit filed by Don Higginson, a former mayor of Poway, located in San Diego County, after city officials 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. Higginson sued the city and the State of California a month later, alleging the CRVA was unlawful.
A federal judge had previously dismissed the case. Higginson and Blum appealed the dismissal and request to amend the lawsuit, and, in December 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court, ruling that “it is well settled that governments may adopt measures designed ‘to eliminate racial disparities through race-neutral means.’”