Anaheim in Settlement Talks on Council Districts Suit

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Anaheim officials have entered into talks with American Civil Liberties Union to settle a state voting rights act lawsuit, which alleges that Latinos are excluded from the city’s at large election system, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

The suit, filed by the ACLU last year on behalf of Latino activists, argues that Anaheim’s at large voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act because it does not give Latinos, who constitute 54 percent of the city’s population, fair representation on the City Council.

Latino activists have demanded a switch to district elections, which would mandate that residents of a geographic district could vote only for candidates who reside within the district’s borders. None of the members of the current all-white council lives in the majority Latino sections of town.

From the LA Times article:

The case is set to go to trial in March but key hearings and depositions have been delayed because the parties appear to be moving toward a deal, according to court records and a plaintiff.

“For me, certainly, any settlement talks are about the city agreeing toward the direction of establishing districts, authentic districts, where the representatives are voted for by the residents of those districts,” said Jose Moreno, a plaintiff in the suit.

Depositions of City Council members and even influential lobbyists like former Mayor Curt Pringle were scheduled to begin late in October. But the depositions were postponed as city officials and the ACLU haggled over the parameters of the questioning.

ACLU attorneys wanted to use the depositions of current and former council members to illustrate the city’s political environment. Specifically, the attorneys were looking for whether council members are responsive to working-class Latino communities.

Under Anaheim’s at large system, it can take hundreds of thousands of dollars to successfully run for council. In the last election cycle, elite business interests, Disneyland and labor unions dolled out large amounts of money to elect council members.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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