The American Civil Liberties Union and local activists Thursday announced a lawsuit against Anaheim alleging that the city violates the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, a law that mandates better representation for minorities.
A majority of the city — 54 percent — is Latino, yet none of the sitting council members are Latino, an indication that the city's largest group of residents isn't represented, activists assert. The ACLU and activists say the cause of the inequity is Anaheim's at-large electoral system, meaning there are no requirements that council candidates live in certain neighborhoods.
Four of the five sitting council members reside in Anaheim Hills, the city's affluent eastern quarter.
“I make it a point to vote in every election,” said Consuelo Garcia, a city resident who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Unfortunately, I don't feel like my vote is granted.”
The result is that the city's resources are unequally allocated to Anaheim Hills, according to a report from Orange County Communities for Responsible Development, which conducts policy research and civic activism. Anaheim Hills has more parks, libraries, fire stations and community centers per 50,000 residents than other parts of the city, the report states.
One of the reasons Anaheim Hills is able to stack the council with representatives from that neighborhood is because its residents pour the most money into City Council campaigns, said Bardis Vakili, an attorney at ACLU's Orange County office.
“At the end of the day, they [council members] respond to who is going to elect them,” Vakili said.
The city, meanwhile, is holding a community workshop on July 11 for community comment on the idea of implementing council districts. Some council members have said they want to hear from the wider community before they take positions on such a proposal.
“Honestly, I need the same education that the rest of my colleagues and the city is looking for,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said.
Vakali argues that while community comment is always good, council districts are a matter of the democratic right to adequate representation.
“The right to a fair vote is not up to a popular election,” Vakali said. “This isn't 'American Idol.' ”