CA voting rights act leads to gerrymandering again

I just saw an article describing another case where the CA voting rights act imposes a remedy of (gerrymandered) districts on an at-large election.

(I previously wrote about the CA voting rights act and the city of Modesto)

Madera Unified case is changing elections throughout California

An injunction in the case is forcing Madera Unified, which is 82% Latino, to change the way it elects its board.

The latest step along that road was a ruling in September by Madera County Superior Court Judge James E. Oakley, who invalidated, in advance, the results of the November school board election. Oakley said Madera’s at-large voting system, in which all voters in the district cast ballots for all board members rather than for a candidate representing their section of town, violated the Voting Rights Act.

Relying on the remedy suggested by the law, he called for the district to be divided into seven trustee areas, with candidates to run in each.

The state’s Voting Rights Act, enacted in 2002, bans at-large voting if there is evidence that it “impairs the ability” of a minority group “to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”

Other jurisdictions are paying heed. In the wake of Oakley’s order, the Madera City Council decided to switch to district elections, City Councilman Robert Poythress said. And in neighboring Fresno County, where 28 of 32 school boards use at-large elections, all 28 decided to follow Madera’s lead and switch to district elections, county schools Supt. Larry Powell said.

And this gem:

Deciding not to fight the ruling, the school board drew up a map in which three of the seven voting districts have Latino majorities. In a delicate exercise in gerrymandering, each of the incumbents was given a separate district.

I’m no fan of at-large voting but imposed gerrymandered districts is a remedy that is worse then the previous situation. There should either be a process to ensure that the districts are not gerrymandered (such as algorithmic redistricting) or use of a decent multi-winner election method.

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One response to “CA voting rights act leads to gerrymandering again

  1. The LA times also comments on the Madera Unified School District’s districting:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-madera10-2009jan10,0,7202165.story

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