MALDEF lawsuit to protect minority voting power catalyzes decision

BELLFLOWER, CA - Today, the City of Bellflower voted to place on the November 2016 ballot an ordinance that would change the at-large election system to a by-district system for each of the seats on its City Council. The council supports the measure as the most appropriate course of action to ensure optimal geographic representation on the council, and to ensure that all city residents are able to elect candidates of their choice.

Last Summer, MALDEF, together with the law firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, and the Law Offices of Robert Rubin, filed suit against the City of Bellflower, arguing that the city's at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA), because it results in minority voter dilution, and prevents Latinos and African Americans from electing candidates of their choice or influencing the outcome of City Council elections. The majority of the city's residents are Latino, while 37 percent of the citizen voting-age population (CVAP) is Latino, and 14 percent of the CVAP is African American. Yet there are no Latinos or African Americans on the five-member City Council.

"Local governments that represent the views of all residents, not just some isolated subset, have proven and will prove to be the best-equipped entities to tackle the public-policy challenges faced in local communities throughout California and across the nation," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "We are confident that Bellflower voters will see the wisdom and universal appeal in the proposal before them in November 2016."

If Bellflower voters adopt the resolution in November 2016, the city will establish five single-member districts. City Council candidates will be elected by residents of the district in which the candidate resides, and the winner will represent the views of district residents. The measure would also establish a new electoral district map, about which the City will maintain notices, agendas, proposed maps, and other information on its website. Finally, the measure would initiate a request to Los Angeles County to consolidate the City's general municipal election with the statewide election in November of even-numbered years.

"Last November, Merced, Anaheim, Turlock, and Los Baños voted to move to district elections," said Denise Hulett, MALDEF National Senior Counsel. "If the ballot measure passes, Bellflower will join the growing ranks of local entities recognizing that by-district elections reflect good governmental policy and lead to increased political participation by its residents."

The California Voting Rights Act provides that "an at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election." MALDEF encourages Bellflower voters to protect the ability of all city residents to elect candidates of their choice in the spirit of the equality the CVRA is intended to secure.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund