On Monday, the City of Palmdale was informed that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney had canceled its election on November 5 of this year.
The lawsuit stems from an alleged violation of the California Voting Rights Act on the grounds that Palmdale’s at-large voting system prevents minorities from fair representation. In his ruling, Mooney stated that the three Palmdale residents who filed suit “as well as the general public, would be irreparably harmed” if city officials go through with their plans to hold an election less than five weeks from now.
“We have received calls and emails from residents, candidates and even the media wondering just what elections have been cancelled by the judge’s decision in the California Voting Rights Case,” said Palmdale Communications Manager John Mlynar in an official press release on Tuesday.
“The City of Palmdale stands firm in our efforts to protect the Constitutional rights of its residents to have their voice heard through the voting process,” stated Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. ““This ruling is not only highly unusual, it strikes at the heart of our republic, directly thwarting the will of the people.”
California’s counties—as well as many of its biggest cities—already elect representatives by district. Many community college and school districts across the state have chosen to preemptively make the switch in order to avoid predicaments like that of Palmdale.
Jurisdictions 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.
Palmdale’s population is nearly 55% Latino and almost 15% black. According to the Times, the city has elected only one Hispanic and no blacks to its council since the city was incorporated in 1962.
City officials are quick to point out that three of the four candidates vying for the two open seats are in fact, minorities. Because of this, at least one will be elected to the council.
While Palmdale officials remain confident, the Times reports that “no local government has won a state voting rights lawsuit” to date.
“We are certainly traveling on uncharted waters,” Mlynar said.
Read the full article at the Los Angeles Times.