MALDEF WARNS ANTELOPE VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRCT OF LEGAL ACTION OVER ELECTION SYSTEM
At-Large Voting System Used to Elect 5-member Board Violates California Voting Rights Act
March 22, 2017
Los Angeles, CA - The Antelope Valley Community College District’s current at-large system used to elect the five-member Governing Board violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA), according to a civil rights group.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) made the allegations Thursday in a letter to Antelope Valley Community College District President Michael Adams and Superintendent Edward Knudson. The letter warns district officials that the current election system dilutes the Latino vote and prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice to serve on the board.
"With the growth and size of the Latino youth population, the entire state of California depends upon community colleges serving the Latino student community well," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "Representation in governance is critical to satisfying that essential goal."
The letter follows an investigation by MALDEF attorneys who found the district’s at-large system has resulted in an underrepresentation of Latino residents on the board.
“We are asking Antelope Valley Community College District to implement elections that make sure that all communities, including the Latino community, have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” stated Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “It is our hope that the board will respond to this demand with receptivity to ensuring that Latinos have full and fair voting rights.”
Latinos constitute 35 percent of the citizen voting age population of the district at Antelope Valley. Yet, there is currently no Latino/a serving on the five-member board and one hasn’t been elected in almost two decades.
“The board's lack of Latino representations has significant effects on student outcomes and the day-to-day running of the College and its programs,” said César Miguel Rivera Vega Magallón, President of Antelope Valley LULAC, Chapter 3249. “For example, despite the demographics of the region and its student body, only 13% of the college's staff is Latino. It is our suspicion this results from a lack of attention to the specific needs of Latinos by the board of what is an ostensibly Hispanic Serving Institution. In essence, AVC receives funding due to the large population of Latinos on its campuses whose votes its election system invalidates and who fail to receive adequate programmatic or academic support as a result."
Other community college districts have faced similar legal challenges in recent years, including Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), Chaffey Community College District and Santa Clarita Community College District.
A copy of the letter sent to the board can be viewed 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.