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COC board votes to fight voting rights lawsuit

Posted: July 11, 2013 1:01 p.m.
Updated: July 11, 2013 1:01 p.m.

Members of the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees have decided to fight a lawsuit alleging the system for electing board members dilutes the Latino vote and violates the state Voting Rights Act, a college spokesman said Thursday.

COC spokesman Bruce Battle wrote in an email Thursday that the college’s Board of Trustees “had authorized its attorneys to defend the lawsuit.”

Board members had a closed-session meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the lawsuit.

Filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges the college’s at-large election system, in which voters choose from a common pool of candidates to fill the five-member board, prevents Latino voters from having full access to the political process by preventing them from electing candidates of their choice.

Doing so would be a violation of the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, according to the lawsuit.

“An 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,” according to the language of the Voting Rights Act.

Similar lawsuits have also been filed against the Sulphur Springs School District and the city of Santa Clarita.
All three lawsuits allege that at-large election systems effectively diminish the power of Latino voters to elect their choice candidates and suggest that a shift to another system, such as district-based elections, would better serve the will of voters.

The Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday to defend against the lawsuit that was filed against the city.
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