Palmdale ordered to hold new municipal elections (Decision PDF)

City of Palmdale, California.
City of Palmdale, California.
City of Palmdale

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A Superior Court judge has ordered Palmdale to hold elections for every member of its City Council next year to resolve charges that the Los Angeles suburb discriminates against black and Latino voters.

Under the tentative ruling issued Friday by Judge Mark V. Mooney, each of the city's four council members would be elected by districts approved by the judge. Two of those districts would have a majority of Hispanic voters.

The elections would be held in June and the newly elected officials would take office in July.
Voters from throughout the city of 155,000 residents currently elect each of the council's four members.

Mooney ruled last July that such a method violates the California Voting Rights Act by diluting the influence of black and Hispanic voters.

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford disagrees with Mooney's decision. He points to the city’s at-large election just last month, in which an African-American man won a council seat and said he's frustrated that the judge barred Palmdale from certifying the results as official.

"He is now refusing to validate what he said was impossible," Ledford said, "meaning a person of minority status getting elected in an at-large election in Palmdale."

Kevin Shenkman, attorney for the Palmdale voters who sued to establish districts, says despite the November election results, the problem of at-large elections remains.

"It’s not really about the complexion of the candidate," Shenkman told KPCC. "It’s about giving minority voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, regardless of the skin color of that candidate."  

Ledford, who’s been Palmdale’s mayor since 1992, said the city will appeal to keep the November election results intact and to overturn the judge’s move to district elections.

Full decision: Palmdale ordered to hold new elections

This story has been updated.