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Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Case Propose July Special Council Election


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January 4, 2019 -- The plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit against the City submitted a "proposed statement of decision" to the court on Friday that calls for holding a special election on July 2 for all seven City Council seats.

The election would be held using a map submitted by the Latino plaintiffs that divides the City into seven Council districts, as ordered by Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos on Wednesday.

The judge also asked the plaintiffs to submit the "proposed statement of decision" she will edit and make final ("Judge Orders City to Use Plaintiffs' Map for Special Council Election," January 2, 2019).

The statement drafted by the plaintiffs' lead attorney Kevin Shenkman provides a time-line for the special Council election.

"Based on the path this Court has laid out, a final judgment in this case should be entered by no later than March 1, 2019," Shenkman wrote.

"Therefore, a special election -- a district-based election pursuant to the seven district map -- for all seven city council positions should be held on July 2, 2019.

"The votes can be tabulated within 30 days of the election, and the winners can be seated on the Santa Monica City Council at its first meeting in August 2019," Shenkman wrote.

The time-line would ensure that "nobody who has not been elected through a lawful election consistent with this decision may serve on the Santa Monica City Council past August 15, 2019."

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Palazuelos' order came after she asked the City -- whose at-large election system she found violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) -- to embark on a process to draft a map drawn with the public's input.

The City agreed to undertake the task after it had exhausted all its appeals.

The judge then ordered the special district election under the map drawn for the plaintiffs by demographer David Ely and asked the plaintiffs' attorneys to draft the statement submitted Friday.

"All Santa Monica residents deserve an equitable voice in their city government," Shenkman wrote in the conclusion to his 39-page document.

"Defendant’s at large election system denies some of its residents that right in a discriminatory fashion, and violates both the CVRA and the Equal Protection Clause.

"Accordingly, this Court orders that, from the date of judgment, Defendant is prohibited from imposing its at-large election system, and must implement district-based elections for its city council in accordance with the seven-district map presented at trial."

After the hearing Wednesday the City issued a statement indicating it plans to appeal the judge's decision.

"The City of Santa Monica will carefully consider all legal options, including appeal, once the court has issued a final ruling," the statement said.

In a separate statement issued Wednesday, City Attorney Lane Dilg said the City believes districts "would likely diminish rather than enhance Latino/a voting power in Santa Monica.

"The City believes its election system complies with all laws," Dilg said. "If a final judicial decision determines otherwise, then districts should be drawn with the broad community participation required by the California Elections Code.”

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