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Castaic school district to talk election future

Posted: June 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Faced with the possibility of a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit, members of the Castaic Union School District board will discuss whether to change the district’s at-large system for electing board members during a meeting Monday night.

“We want to be in full compliance with the act and we think we are,” Castaic district board President David Huffaker said Friday. “But we want to review our process.”

Four Santa Clarita Valley school districts — the Castaic district, Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District and William S. Hart Union High School District — received letters from the Malibu-based law firm Shenkman & Hughes last week urging board members to discuss ways to make voter representation fairer for Hispanics and avoid violations of the California Voting Rights Act.

Shenkman & Hughes previously filed lawsuits against the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Community College District and Sulphur Springs School District alleging that their at-large election systems, which allow all voters who live within a government agency’s boundaries to cast ballots for all seats that are up for election, violated the California Voting Rights Act.

All three of those agencies have since settled those lawsuits.

Monday’s agenda item is a recommendation for Castaic district board members to review and consider the direction for future board elections. One of the possible considerations listed in the agenda item is to develop and implement trustee areas, or districts.

Another option listed is to seek approval of even-year elections.

A collection of agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley, including the Castaic district, sought approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last year to change their election dates from odd-numbered to even-numbered years.

That effort failed when supervisors split on the item with a 2-2-1 vote.

Another possible option for the Castaic district is to look at cumulative voting, where voters could cast as many votes as there are seats up for election, including multiple votes for the same candidate.

The Castaic district’s discussion will come on the heels of an announcement that board members in the Hart district will also discuss whether to change to district-based elections.

In the letter sent to the Hart district, attorney Kevin Shenkman warned of potential legal action.

“Given the racially polarized elections in the (William S. Hart Union High School District), we again urge WHSD to voluntarily change its at-large system of electing board members,” the letter reads. “Otherwise,on behalf of residents within the jurisdiction, we will be forced to seek judicial relief.”

Monday’s meeting of the Castaic district board will begin at 6 p.m. in the district offices, 28131 Livingston Ave.
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