City Accused of Violating California Voting Rights Act

August 10, 2016

MONROVIA, CA - Today, MALDEF sent a letter to the Mayor of Monrovia and the Monrovia 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.

“The residents of Monrovia deserve the best governance possible,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “By impairing representation of minority voters, the at-large elections system prevents the full community buy-in that is essential for any municipality to thrive.”

MALDEF conducted an investigation into 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 31.7% of the eligible voter population of Monrovia. However, it appears that there are currently no Latino members on the five-seat council and only one Latino individual has served on the City Council since 1999.

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 Monrovia 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.

“This action simply serves to enhance representation and makes elected officials more responsive to the needs of residents,” said California LULAC State Director Dave Rodriguez. “We fully support this action by the legal voice of our community.”

Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney, said, “Monrovia’s current at-large election system fails to serve the needs of the Latino community. Conversion to a by-district system will provide all voters with an opportunity to fully participate in the electoral process.”

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:

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