Santa Monica Lookout Opinion
|It's Time to End City's Voting Rights Fight|
Editor's note: The Following letter was sent to the City Council on September 6 by the Pico Neighborhod Association (PNA), a plaintiff in the voting rights case.
In the CVRA ruling, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal's 2020 decision that had previously reversed the Los Angeles Superior Court's decision that Santa Monica's at-large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The California Supreme Court adopted the legal standard proposed by the plaintiffs and directed the Court of Appeal to re-evaluate the Los Angeles Superior Court's judgment under that correct legal standard. The California Supreme Court rejected the City's contention that the California Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional, and rejected the City's argument that a minority group must be large enough and concentrated enough to comprise the majority of an electoral district in order to compel a change from at-large elections.
The ruling is a watershed moment in litigation that has already spanned nearly 8 years, and in the Pico Neighborhood's struggle for representation that has spanned nearly 80 years. In that time, the Pico Neighborhood has been the victim of the City's neglect, and the City's dumping ground of convenience for all the undesirable elements of the City, from the trash sorting facility to the freeway, because it lacked a representative of its own in city government.
We appreciate the City Council's recent stated dedication to issues of racial justice and equity. Yet, the City's expenditure of millions of dollars to maintain its fight against the California Voting Rights Act and the voting rights it protects, stands in stark contrast.
City officials cannot credibly claim to be championing racial justice while denying fair elections to Latino voters and threatening the voting rights of all people of color throughout California, and spending millions of dollars on attorneys to do so.
In his recent op-ed, US Senator Alex Padilla explained the impact of the City's fight against minority voting rights: "If the City of Santa Monica prevails, the CVRA's protections against discriminatory at-large elections would be drastically weakened. In other words, if the city has its way, California would be set back 20 years."
We understand that most of the new City Council members had no role in the decision in 2016 to begin this fight, or the decision in 2019 to appeal the LA Superior Court's judgment that the City's at-large elections violate the CVRA. We would imagine even some of those council members responsible for those decisions would have done differently had they known how exceptionally costly their decisions would prove to be. Yet now the decision will be up to the new City Council, and history will remember which side you were on.
It's time for you to end the City's expensive and divisive fight against the voting rights of Latinos in Santa Monica, and minorities throughout California. Drop the appeal, stop wasting millions of our tax dollars and unite the Council and the City in the process.
PNA Board of Directors-
Gina de Baca
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