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Cumulative voting heads to court

Posted: July 25, 2014 5:22 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2014 5:22 p.m.

Whether the city of Santa Clarita can employ a relatively unknown voting system to settle its California Voting Rights Act lawsuit is set to be decided in court.

A hearing is scheduled Sept. 8 in Los Angeles County Superior Court to determine if Santa Clarita can adopt a cumulative voting system as part of its settlement of a lawsuit alleging its current election system violates the California Voting Rights Act by diluting the electoral power of minorities, according to Santa Clarita City Attorney Joe Montes.

Under the current at-large voting system, voters get as many votes as there are seats up for election in a given year, but they may cast only one vote per candidate.

Under cumulative voting, they could cast all of their votes for a single candidate.

In legal briefs on the matter, the city’s attorneys argue that, as a general law city, Santa Clarita is limited by state law in the types of changes it can make to its election system.

“The fact that cumulative voting is not expressly permitted by state law, therefore, means it is prohibited for general law cities like Santa Clarita,” one brief reads.

Kevin Shenkman, a lawyer with the Malibu firm Shenkman & Hughes — which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city, said there is nothing in state law that prevents adopting a cumulative voting system.

“Nothing in California law prohibits cumulative voting in any way, even outside of the context of a voting rights case,” Shenkman said Friday.

He also pointed out that cumulative voting has been used as a remedy to settle cases brought elsewhere under the federal Voting Rights Act.

In their legal briefs, city attorneys write that federal law typically defers to state law on matters such as elections.

The California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed against Santa Clarita last year alleged the city’s current at-large voting system violated the California Voting Rights Act by preventing Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice.

Santa Clarita officials agreed to switch the election dates for the City Council to November of even-numbered years and to examine the possibility of cumulative voting to settle the lawsuit.

As part of that agreement, the question of whether cumulative voting can be adopted as part of a settlement of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit has to undergo legal review.

Whatever way the matter is decided could affect other agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Santa Clarita Community College District faced a similar lawsuit to the city’s and agreed to settle its suit by agreeing to switch its election dates to November of even-numbered years and adopt cumulative voting.

The Newhall School District has also indicated it will switch its elections to even-numbered years and adopt cumulative voting — if those moves are deemed legal.

Two other local school districts — the Sulphur Springs School District and the William S. Hart Union High School District — have decided to switch to by-district elections for their governing boards.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




Allan_Cameron: Posted: July 26, 2014 6:39 a.m.

There are 482 cities in California, 58 counties, and thousands of "special districts", such as school districts, water districts, and so forth.

How many of these have a system where voters vote up to three times for the same candidate?


The blood sucking opportunist lawyers behind these actions share an interesting characteristic.

"Conservative" R. Rex Parris and "liberal" Kevin Shenkman live in Lancaster and Malibu, respectively.

How do the voters in these two cities elect their representatives? Do these towns vote for all who govern them, as we do in Santa Clarita, or are these two cities divided into "districts"?

Answer---Lancaster and Malibu vote exactly as we do. Both of these cities chose their voting systems in elections, at the polls, where the choice was between "choose all five", or "choose just one".

Both towns chose to vote for all five. In the case of Lancaster, the voters chose "all five", not once, but twice. The second time was when Lancaster chose to become a "Charter City", instead of a "General Law" City.

Lancaster and Malibu are not alone in this regard.

In free elections, all ten of the last cities to form in Los Angeles County chose to vote for all five, not just one of the people who would govern.

It is interesting that no reporter has asked these two attorneys when they will be filing lawsuits against their own home towns, for perpetrating the "voter outrages" they see in Santa Clarita.

Of course, the underlying premise of these actions, is that all people who share an ethnic or racial characteristic will behave and vote in predictable and identical ways.

This premise is putrid, odious racism.

The idea that all "Latino/Hispanics" need to be able to choose "their" candidate, because "they" are all the same will come as a surprise to Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Perez, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

Tell the elected leaders of this town to form alliances statewide, and fight so that 80 percent of the right to vote of our citizens (all of them) is not lost.

If they will not do at least that, then ask that this issue (for starters) be decided (again) by the voters in an election.

As was done when the City of Santa Clarita was formed 26 years ago, I suspect that a healthy majority of voters (regardless of their ethnic or other background issues) will choose to vote for all five of the people who will govern them, not just one.

ricketzz: Posted: July 26, 2014 10:06 a.m.

All of these "improvements" to one person one vote are turning people away from voting entirely. Stop messing with things so fast. We still haven't fully embraced the single party general elections. Your New World Order sucks.

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