Minority voters in Anaheim on Tuesday won a long-sought change in the way elected officials represent the most populous city in Orange County. Voters agreed to create single-member council districts.
Measure L passed with 68 percent of the vote on Tuesday, requiring future city council candidates to live in the neighborhoods they represent. L also means only residents in those districts can vote for their representative.
In addition, voters added two more council member positions, expanding the total number of council districts to six.
The mayor will continue to be elected at large. Single member districts won’t go into effect until the next election in 2016.
Two years ago, three Latino activists sued the city, claiming its at\-large election system, where voters citywide cast ballots for all council candidates, prevents minority voters from being able to elect a candidate of their choice.
The city settled the lawsuit last year after spending $1.2 million fighting it in court. As part of the settlement, city officials agreed to ask voters to decide if they want to switch to a single-member council district system.
Several cities in California have been forced to change to a district-based election system via lawsuit. Civil rights attorneys and groups have filed multiple lawsuits over the last decade alleging cities with at-large elections systems were violating the state’s voting rights act.
The law makes it illegal for municipalities to hold at-large elections if the process dilutes the voting power of minority groups or denies them political representation. It is an expansion of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The next step toward implementing single-member districts in Anaheim is forming an advisory committee that will draw district maps. The city council will appoint three retired Orange County judges from Anaheim. They’ll recommend district maps for the council to adopt by early July 2016.