MALDEF DEMANDS CITY OF LA MIRADA CHANGE ITS AT-LARGE ELECTION SYSTEM
City Accused of Violating California Voting Rights Act
August 3, 2016
LA MIRADA, CA - Today, MALDEF sent a letter to the Mayor of La Mirada and the La Mirada City Council, demanding that the system for electing members to the city council be changed to comply with the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The City currently elects council members using an at-large method, which has denied Latino residents the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the City Council. MALDEF demands that the City convert to a by-district election system.
"City councils make important decisions with everyday impacts on all residents," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "All of La Mirada has an interest in ensuring that residents from all sizeable communities have representation on the council."
MALDEF conducted an investigation after receiving complaints from Latino citizens and voters in the City that its at-large election system prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of choice to the City Council. According to U.S. Census data, Latinos constitute 36% of the eligible voter population of La Mirada. However, there are currently no Latino members on the five-seat council, and with one exception, there have been no Latinos on the city council since La Mirada's incorporation in 1960.
The CVRA states that "[a]n 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 reviewed election returns and demographic information, and concluded that the lack of success of Latino voters in electing candidates of their choice results from persistent racially-polarized voting in the electorate.
The letter requests that the City of La Mirada respond by August 17, 2016. If the response is unsatisfactory, MALDEF and its clients will seek a judicial order changing the election system from at-large to by-district, along with other relief provided for in the CVRA, including the collection of costs and attorneys' fees.
Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney, said, "MALDEF stands with La Mirada's Latino voters in their pursuit of a place in local government. These residents simply want a voice in who gets to have a say in important aspects of civic life."
The right to vote is fundamental to democracy in the U.S. and must be protected for all citizens, regardless of race. MALDEF supports equal representation for all communities across the country.
A copy of the letter is available HERE.
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: www.maldef.org.