A coalition of Latino advocacy groups is demanding the city of Garden Grove switch to electing city council members by districts or the groups will ask the courts to require the change.
“The inability of Latino voters to select candidates of their choice is due to racially polarized voting in at-large elections that violate the California Voting Rights Act,” reads a joint letter from the Latino legal rights group MALDEF, the California branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens and local Santa Ana LULAC.
Garden Grove officials have until July 3 to respond to the demand before the group says it will go to court to force the city to make the change.
Garden Grove is the latest Orange County municipality to consider district elections, as a number of cities and districts with large minority populations have started to transition from at-large to by-district elections in anticipation of potential lawsuits.
Moving to a by-district system from one in which council members are elected on an at-large basis is seen as a way for minority and underserved communities to have greater representation on elected bodies.
According to the latest US Census data, 37 percent of Garden Grove’s population is Latino, 37 percent is Asian and 22 percent is white.
“However, none of the five current members of the Garden Grove City Council is Latino, and no Latino candidates have been elected to city council in the last six decades, perhaps longer,” the letter reads.
The demand letter comes just a week after council member Kris Beard sought support from his colleagues to place district elections on the 2016 general election ballot.
Except for Mayor Bao Nguyen, the rest of the council wasn’t interested in taking action unless there was a substantial legal threat.
This isn’t the first time Garden Grove residents have pushed for district elections.
In 2005, a group of residents collected signatures for an initiative to elect six council members by district and the mayor through an at-large election. The initiative ultimately did not qualify for the ballot.
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