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City Asks Appeals Court To Expedite Voting Rights Ruling
By Jorge Casuso
April 30, 2019 -- The City of Santa Monica on Monday asked the California Court of Appeal to expedite its ruling in the voting rights lawsuit to assure a Council election is held in November 2020 as scheduled.
The City requested that the Court grant "calendar preference" for the case and "set an expedited briefing and argument schedule that would result in a decision by July 10, 2020," City officials said in a statement.
According to the motion filed, the City "would prefer to hold its next election -- whether at-large or district-based -- on the next regular election date," when the terms of four of the seven council members expire.
A July 2020 ruling would allow the election to be held “with both candidates and voters confident that the method under which it is conducted is legally valid," according to the motion.
It also would “maximize voter turnout, maintain the expected regular opportunity for voters to select their Council members, and minimize disruption to City government," the motion said.
The motion comes one month after the three-judge appeals panel issued a ruling that allows the sitting Council members to continue serving while the City's appeal is heard ("Appeals Court Rules City Council Can Remain Pending Voting Rights Appeal," March 27, 2019).
As a result of the ruling, the City was also not required to hold a special election for all seven Council seats on July 2 this year.
The panel's order stayed a ruling by Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos that prohibits Council members not elected under a district system from serving after August 15.
Kevin Shenkman, who represents the Latino plaintiffs in the case, said he expected the Court to rule by next July with or without the City's motion.
"I'd like to see it get decided before" July 2020, Shenkman said.
Shenkman noted the City is asking that the case be expedited when it has not yet filed an opening brief.
"They've had months to prepare their opening brief," he said.
The Council unanimously voted on February 21 to appeal the Superior Court's ruling that found Santa Monica's at large election system discriminates against Latino voters ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Appeal Voting Rights Ruling," February 21, 2019)
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