A lawsuit has spread forcing Escondido and numerous San Diego cities to switch from city council elections to voting district elections.
Escondido was sued under the California’s Voting Rights Act, a 2002 law designed to provide minorities a voice and stance in government particularly in communities where they make up a large percentage of the population.
San Diego County cities that are also facing the litigation include Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Imperial Beach. All five, including Escondido are considerably ethnically diverse cities. The 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act shows a major concern to minority votes not taken into account in at-large elections.
Municipalities could be in danger of litigation under the 2002 California Voting Rights Act. Recent lawsuits were filed by other groups, such as the State Building and Construction Trades Council filed a lawsuit against Escondido and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Anaheim last year, according to David Garrick writer for the San Diego Union Tribune.
Latino communities in San Diego Counties, such as San Marcos and El Cajon have large populations with a majority of all white councils. However, no Latinos have been elected. The number one issue is district elections can “polarize communities,” Mark Lewis, mayor of El Cajon told the San Diego Union Tribune.
Nine county governments, community colleges and school districts have been sued and nearly 100 others have switched to districts deliberately because of the threat of the litigation, according to Garrick.
In San Diego County, San Marcos, El Cajon and Imperial Beach have all-white councils and a comparable large population of Latinos.
“Escondido has a majority of Latinos that reaches half of the population and areas of predominantly white communities are outvoting the Latino communities,” Paul Mitchell, the owner of Redistricting Partners, told the San Diego Union Tribune.
The lawsuit that forced Escondido to have district elections was filed last December by claims of discrimination within the at-large election structure against minorities. The lawsuit surfaced from many Latino community members and a labor group according to a KPBS news article published on Oct. 9, 2013 by Megan Burke.
Each districts population must have an equal population size under the U.S. Constitution. The districting commission contains seven-members who will gather guidance from the public and to help establish the geological boundaries of four council districts.
Only one Latino serves on Escondido’s city council. A settlement was reached in March to form new districts in certain locations of the city, according Burke.
“This will allow people to come in…and share with us what their community of interest is,” Dana Nuesca, the commission chair, told KPBS.
The commission held public meetings in October to determine the place of the district’s boundaries and to gather the concerns of residents living in the areas.
In these San Diego County cities, such as Vista’s Council has encouraged Latino’s to run for office. Vista was also investigated under the Federal Voting Rights Act for district elections.
For additional information visit: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Aug/05/election-latino-voting-rights-lawsuits-escondido/?#article-copy