MALDEF DEMANDS CITY OF CHINO HILLS CHANGE ITS AT-LARGE ELECTION SYSTEM
City Accused of Violating California Voting Rights Act
August 9, 2016
CHINO HILLS, CA - Today, MALDEF sent a letter to the Mayor of Chino Hills and the Chino Hills 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.
"California, through its representative legislature, long ago decided that at-large systems that prevent minorities from electing candidates of choice to elected bodies cannot persist," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Chino Hills should join numerous others California cities in changing its election system to ensure representation for all."
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 27.3% of the eligible voter population of Chino Hills. However, it appears that only one Latino, current council member Ray Marquez, who was elected in a special election in 2013, has served on the City Council since the City's incorporation.
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 Chino Hills respond by August 24, 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.
"California LULAC is proud to support this action by MALDEF, the Latino community's legal arm. This serves to remind elected leaders that we will always protect the interests of Latino voters," said California LULAC State Director Dave Rodriguez.
Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney, said, "Election systems that dilute minority voting strength and obstruct the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choice are antithetical to our democratic ideals."
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.