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June trial date expected in COC Voting Rights Act lawsuit

Posted: May 14, 2014 6:33 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:33 p.m.

A trial is scheduled to begin in June in the case of a lawsuit against the Santa Clarita Community College District alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act.

In a tentative ruling dated Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu denied a motion for summary judgment in the case, clearing the way for a trial date of June 2 on the matter.

“The case isn’t over and we continue to be optimistic,” College of the Canyons spokesman Eric Harnish said Wednesday.

The lawsuit against the district, which encompasses both COC campuses, was one of three filed against Santa Clarita Valley government agencies last summer.

Lawsuits were also filed against the city of Santa Clarita and the Sulphur Springs School District.

In all three cases, the lawsuits alleged that the at-large methods of electing council or board members — whereby voters can cast ballots for every seat up for election in a given year — violated the California Voting Rights Act by preventing Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice.

Earlier this year the Sulphur Springs district announced a settlement agreement in the case filed against it. The district agreed to pay more than $144,000 in plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs, and to switch to a by-trustee-area election system, meaning voters in a trustee area will elect a trustee to represent a designated area of the district.

Each voter will be able to cast a ballot only for a trustee candidate to represent his or her area.

The city also announced a settlement agreement earlier this year, saying it would change the date of Santa Clarita City Council elections from April to November of even-numbered years and pursue cumulative voting, a system whereby voters could cast as many votes as there are seats up for election in a given year, including multiple votes for the same candidate.

Kevin Shenkman, an attorney with the Malibu-based firm that represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against COC — and represented plaintiffs in the suits against Sulphur Springs and the city, as well — could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




michael: Posted: May 15, 2014 8:56 a.m.

This is a needed change. One way to clean house and minimize the clout of special interest. More power to the people that live outside the Valencia area.

Allan_Cameron: Posted: May 15, 2014 11:58 a.m.

Of the current five member City Council, three live in Canyon Country, and two live in Newhall. That means, of course, none live in Valencia.

The rational of these lawsuits is to empower Hispanic voters, and somehow, other "minorities".

In Palmdale, these same two lawyers used court tactics to prevent an African American, elected under their present system of allowing inclusive voting so all voters may select all 5 who govern (not just one), from taking his fairly won seat. This fairly elected individual had to wait several months until another council member resigned her seat, before taking the seat the voters had awarded him.

These same two lawyers actually contemplated trying to stop the City Council election we just had on April 8 here in Santa Clarita.

Had they done so, they would have interfered with (and perhaps stopped) the election of Councilman Dante Acosta. If anyone has noticed, Mr. Acosta has a Hispanic heritage.

If these lawyers are not ultimately stopped, everyone is Santa Clarita will lose 80 percent of their current voting rights. Now, every four years, everyone gets to choose all five people who govern.

If Parris/Shenkman win, all of us will get to choose only one person who governs every four years.

Unreal: Posted: May 15, 2014 12:43 p.m.

michael: You sure don't pay attention do you? The city council spends plenty of money in Newhall the area where a lot of Latino citizens live.
Downtown Newhall is their pet project.

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