MALDEF SUPPORTS CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARD VOTE TO COMPLY WITH CALIFORNIA VOTING RIGHTS ACT AND CREATE SINGLE MEMBER VOTING DISTRICTS
Demand Letter to Val Verde USD Warned of CVRA Violation With At-Large Voting System
LOS ANGELES, CA - The Val Verde Unified School District (Val Verde USD) Board of Education voted unanimously last night to move from an at-large to a district-based election system for Board of Education elections.
"In this era of increased community involvement in school governance through California's new Local Control Funding Formula, it is all the more imperative that school board elections permit equal participation by all voters," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "The unanimous decision by Val Verde Unified School District to enact district elections is a positive and necessary step forward."
MALDEF conducted an investigation after receiving numerous complaints from Latino voters within Val Verde USD that the at-large election method of electing Board members caused a lack of Latino representation on the Board, and left large areas of the district unrepresented. Despite the fact that 63% of the population and 47% of the citizen voting age population is Latino, only one of the current members of the Board of Education is Latino.
The demographic and electoral history of Val Verde USD confirmed that the at-large election system resulted in the limited success of Latino voters in selecting candidates of their choice in violation of the California Voting Rights Act ("CVRA") of 2001. In a March 25, 2014 letter to the Val Verde USD Board of Education, MALDEF demanded that the Board comply with the CVRA by implementing a district election system. 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."
In addition to addressing the discriminatory effect of the at-large system on Latino voters, a fairly drawn district map will also increase the geographic diversity of the Board of Education, as three of the five members of the Board of Education live within a two block area.
"The Board's decision represents a significant advance for Latino access to the political process by replacing a discriminatory at-large election system with a system of district elections. This move demonstrates that the California Voting Rights Act is helping to make Latino political empowerment a reality," said Matthew Barragan, MALDEF staff attorney.
The right to vote is fundamental to the strength of our democracy and must be protected for all citizens across the U.S. MALDEF has continually fought for equal board representation for all communities throughout California and will protect the right to a political voice wherever it may be threatened.
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.
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