By Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times
The city of Anaheim isn’t affected by a recent court rulingthat the city of Palmdale’s at-large voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act, at least not directly. But it’s a clear warning signal to the Anaheim City Council that it’s heading for trouble.
Fast-growing Palmdale in the Antelope Valley is home tomore than 150,000 people, more than half of them Latino. About a quarter of the residents are non-Latino whites and nearly one-sixth are black, according to census data. They are represented by a five-person City Council, one of whose members is longtime Mayor James C. Ledford Jr.
Five local residents alleged in the lawsuit that the city’s at-large elections diluted the voting strength of blacks and Latinos in violation of California law. One of their attorneys, Mayor R. Rex Parris of neighboring Lancaster, pointed out that no blacks and only one Latino have ever won a seat on the Palmdale council, despite their growing numbers.
(Parris’ presence in the case is more than a little ironic, considering that the Justice Department has accused his city, Palmdale, and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department of racial discrimination in housing and law enforcement. And Lancaster has at-large voting too. On the other hand, Parris is publicly supporting a shift to district voting in his city.)
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney’s tentative statement of decision notes that the key question for the courts in these cases is whether there is “racially polarized voting.” That’s defined as a difference between candidates supported by members of a protected class (e.g., blacks and Latinos) and those supported by everyone else in the city.
Click here to read the rest of this article.