MALDEF DEMANDS VICTOR VALLEY UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT CHANGE ITS AT-LARGE BOARD ELECTION SYSTEM
District System Violates California Voting Rights Act
August 11, 2016
VICTORVILLE, CA - Today, MALDEF sent a letter to the Board President and Superintendent of the Victor Valley Union High School District ("Victor Valley UHSD"), demanding that the system for electing members to the Board of Trustees be changed to comply with the California Voting Rights Act ("CVRA"). Victor Valley UHSD currently elects trustees using an at-large method, which has denied Latino residents the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the Board of Trustees. MALDEF demands that the District convert to a by-district election system.
"Each local school board has a critical role to play in preparing our nation for continued economic and political success in the future," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "A fair and inclusive elections system is an essential element in fulfilling that responsibility."
MALDEF conducted an investigation into complaints from Latino citizens and voters that the District's at-large election system prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of choice to the Board of Trustees. According to U.S. Census data, Latinos constitute 33.3% of the eligible voter population in Victor Valley UHSD. However, it appears that there are currently no elected Latino members serving on the Board of Trustees and there have only been two Latinos elected to the Board in the past twenty years. While a current, appointed Board member is Latino, the CVRA focuses on elections, the usual means by which trustees are selected.
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 Victor Valley UHSD respond by August 25, 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, "Sixty percent of the student enrollment in Victor Valley UHSD is Latino, yet Latino families and voters are denied an equal opportunity to elect representatives who make crucial decisions concerning the education of their children. Under the current at-large election system, the Board is neither inclusive nor representative."
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.