Cities that elect their leadership at-large are at risk of ending up on the losing side of costly litigation, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It is now much easier for litigants to prove that minority voting blocs are underrepresented and underserved by at-large districts. Prior to the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, which serves as the foundation of these suits, it had been difficult to prove such claims in court as legal procedure was dictated by the less expansive federal Voting Right Act of 1965. However, the 2001 state law removes the requirement that minority candidates had to first run for office unsuccessfully in order to prove disenfranchisement, making it easier to prove racially polarized voting trends by means of demographics.

Cities with large Latino populations are at the most risk. If a city cannot provide evidence that their minority populations receive fair representation, they can be held responsible for the plaintiff’s legal fees.

Nine county governments and a variety of community college and school districts have been sued to date. The Union-Tribune reports that over 100 others have proactively switched to district representation in an effort to avoid litigation.

Rather than scraping, cities have responded to this threat in a variety of ways. Some are defending their Councils. Others are actively recruiting minority candidates.

To hear from several cities that have been affected by this trend, read the full article at the San Diego Union-Tribune.