State Appellate Court Finds No Discrimination in City's Election System

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A state appellate court panel today overturned a trial court ruling and found the city of Santa Monica's at-large election system was constitutional.

The three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that there was no violation of the state's Voting Rights Act or the state constitution as alleged by the plaintiffs, Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association.

The justices, in reversing a February 2019 ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos, found there was no infringement of the Voting Rights Act because plaintiffs failed to prove the at-large system diluted the votes of Latinos.

The justices also concluded there was no equal-protection violation because the plaintiffs did not prove the city adopted or maintained its system as a means of discriminating against minorities.

“We are very pleased with the Court of Appeal's decision,” said Theodore Boutrous, the city's lead attorney. “The opinion correctly finds that Santa Monica's at-large election system has not diluted Latino voting power and so complies with the California Voting Rights Act.”

Boutrous also said the justices rejected the plaintiffs' “false narrative that the city had intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting and maintaining its current election system.”

In her ruling after a non-jury trial, Palazuelos wrote that there was a “consistent pattern of racially polarized voting over the past 24 years in City Council elections.”

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