BUENA PARK, Calif. — The Buena Park Library District (BPLD) must change its system for electing its board of trustees or risk being sued for violating the California Voting Rights Act, according to a letter sent today by a Latino civil rights organization.

MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) sent the letter to library officials demanding the BPLD switch from the current at-large election system to a district-based election system. The conversion would afford Latino voters an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice as required by the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA).

Tom Quote “All elected positions in California should be equitably available to all communities,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “BPLD should change its election system to permit the representation in governance of all major communities in the district.”

The letter, sent on behalf of Latino voters in the district, demands that BPLD switch to a district-based system in time for the November 2022 election.

The Buena Park Library District, located in Orange County, is an independent special district that provides library services for community residents. The district is governed by a five-member board of trustees that sets policies, regulations and establishes the budget. Members are elected at-large for terms of four years.  The next board of trustees election will be held on November 3, 2020.

In the letter, MALDEF says the district’s at-large system dilutes Latino voting strength and results in underrepresentation. Latinos comprise 30 percent of the citizen voting age population of the district, according to the U.S. Census. However, only one Latino has ever served on the Board by appointment, and no Latino candidates have ever been elected to serve on the Board.

MALDEF conducted an investigation after receiving complaints from Latino voters in Buena Park. Based on the investigation, MALDEF concluded that the lack of success of Latino candidates results from racially polarized voting in Buena Park’s at-large elections.  In that circumstance, at-large elections violate the CVRA.

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.

“Library services are one of the most important and useful public resources provided by local government,” said Tanya Pellegrini, MALDEF staff attorney. “It is particularly important that Latino families have the opportunity to participate in deciding governance of vital community assets.”

A copy of the letter can be viewed HERE.