Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Voting rights: Whittier residents want court to cancel April's election

Whittier Latino Coalition

Sharon McNary/KPCC

Members of the Whittier Latino Coalition include homemaker Lisa Lopez, in the striped shirt. She is one of three Whittier residents who is suing the city with the Coalition's support, demanding the city create council district elections.

A trio of residents who sued Whittier earlier this year alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act have asked a judge to cancel the April election because of the way city council members are chosen.

The residents contend that the voting power of Whittier's 66-percent majority of Latinos is diluted by at-large elections, in which all voters select all council members. Only one Latino has won election to the city council in Whittier, a city of about 86,000 residents in Los Angeles County.

Instead, the residents want the judge to order the council to create electoral districts, and they want elections to be held in June and November, said Attorney Rod Pacheco, who represents three members of the Whittier Latino Coalition. Pacheco expects a hearing on the request in mid-January.

The California Voting Rights Act is a 2002 law which requires local governments to create districts if the at-large system results in racially polarized voting patterns.

The city council had responded to the lawsuit a few months ago when it voted to hold its usual at-large city council election in April, and to place on the June ballot a proposal to change the city charter to provide for district elections.

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