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Judge Denies Request to Stop Certification of Santa Monica Election Results
By Jorge Casuso
November 27, 2018 -- The judge in the voting rights lawsuit against the City on Tuesday denied a request by the plaintiffs to halt certification of the results of the November 6 Santa Monica Council election.
Hours after the ruling, the City issued a statement that it posted on its website announcing Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos' decision and calling the plaintiff's request for a Temporary Restraining Order "inexplicable."
"The Court’s decision honors those votes and rejects plaintiffs’ inexplicable effort to favor a past Council (also selected at-large) over the Council chosen by the voters just weeks ago.
"The result sought by plaintiffs would have moved our democracy backward, not forward,” Dilg wrote.
The plaintiffs lead attorney, Keven Shenkman, downplayed the decision, comparing the City's reaction to a baseball team down nine to nothing celebrating a called ball.
"Congratulations to the City for winning nothing," Shenkman said.
Tuesday morning's decision, he said, likely indicates Palazuelos believes she has the power to "call for a special election and cut a council member's term short."
"That's why she doesn't believe a temporary restraining order is necessary," Shenkman said.
Palazuelos ruled on November 8 that the City had violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and deliberately discriminated against minority voters by refusing to implement district elections ("Plaintiffs Win Voting Rights Suit Against the City of Santa Monica," November 13, 2018).
The City has asked Palazuelos to explain the basis for her "one-sentence" tentative decision in favor of the plaintiffs ("City Asks Judge to Explain Voting Rights Lawsuit Decision," November 19, 2018).
Last week, the plaintiffs proposed a remedy that includes adopting seven council districts and holding a special election in April ("Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Suit Propose District Map, April Election," November 20, 2018).
They also asked Palazuelos to prohibit any further at-large elections and any council member not duly elected through district-based elections from serving .
The City said it will respond on Friday.
In the statement issued Monday, City officials said they oppose the Plaintiffs' remedy, saying they have "failed to show that this map -- which received neither input nor approval from the voters -- would enhance the voting strength of Latinos.
"In fact," officials said, "plaintiffs have failed to show that the map would enhance the voting strength of Latinos in the 'Pico' district drawn by the plaintiffs."
Instead, City officials said it would "dilute the votes of Latinos and other minority voters in other overwhelmingly white districts."
The map submitted to the judge November 19 carves the 8.3-square-mile City of some 92,000 into seven districts with approximately 13,000 residents each ("Proposed Santa Monica Council Map Places Three Incumbents in One District," November 26, 2018.)
The City has said it plans to appeal Palazuelos decision if it becomes final ("City Plans to Appeal Decision in Voting Rights Case," November 13, 2018).
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