Under threat of a lawsuit from Latino advocacy groups, the Garden Grove City Council decided in closed session Tuesday evening to hire a consultant to study the city’s demographics and determine whether racially polarized voting exists.

On June 3, the city received a letter from MALDEF, a legal firm promoting Latino legal rights, giving them a July 3 deadline to take action and implement district elections before the group sues the city to force its hand.

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.

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. But no Latinos ever have been elected to the city council.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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