Anaheim resident, Rabiya Shakil (center), 20, stands with other community members during a July 31, 2012 press conference calling for city leaders to address a lack of Latino and minority representation in City Hall.
UPDATE 9:41 P.M.: After a contentious four-hour meeting, the Anaheim City Council decided by a 3-2 vote to put a “hybrid” election model on the ballot next June. But in another 3-2 vote, it rejected a recommendation from a citizens advisory council – appointed by the city council – to let voters decide on district elections.
The district model was proposed after a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU arguing the city’s at-large voting system violates the California Voting Rights Act. Anaheim’s city council is all-white, while the city is more than 50 percent Latino.
Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait strongly disagreed with the council’s decision, arguing that the hybrid model won’t change the council’s makeup.
“I happen to believe districts are closer to people,” said Tait.
Under the hybrid model, the city council would still be elected by the whole city, but they have to live in the district they represent.
“District voting has a common meaning and it’s not this,” said Tait. “District voting means people in their district vote for their representative.”
Those in favor of the hybrid model said it would ensure a system continues where the council responds to the whole city, not just their district.
“A lot of people think we’re doing just fine,” said councilwoman Lucille Kring who voted against adopting a district system. “We’ve been doing it 157 years.”
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Tonight the Anaheim city council will consider a controversial measure that would change the way future councils are elected.
The new voting system is a so-called hybrid model.
It would carve the city into districts, which council members would live in and represent. But they would still be elected by the whole city – as they are now.
A majority of the council gave preliminary approval to the model last month, though some members might be changing their minds.
Proponents argue it allows the broadest level of representation and has been successful in Anaheim’s neighbor, Santa Ana.
But Anaheim’s mayor and the ACLU – which sued the city – say the hybrid model won’t do anything to change the make-up of the council, which is entirely white, while over half the city’s residents are Latino.
A citizen’s advisory council – appointed by the city council – considered a hybrid model but chose not to recommend it.
Under the city charter, voters will have to approve any change to the electoral process, so if the council votes for the hybrid system, it will go on the ballot next year.
Next week, a judge is expected to rule on the ACLU’s case against Anaheim.
The judge said in April he wanted to see what changes the city would make before ruling.