Daily Archives: September 18, 2007

Update on Modesto and CA voting rights act

Speaking of the case by Modesto disputing the CA voting rights act, the Ballot Access News reports this update:

Both Sides Have Now Filed U.S. Supreme Court Briefs in Modesto Case

The city of Modesto, California, is trying to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate a California election law that will force Modesto to elect its city councilmembers by district. The California law is somewhat like the federal voting rights act, only it is stronger. Modesto will be forced to use districts to elect its city council because under the at-large system, virtually no Hispanics have ever been elected. Here is the brief of the organization opposed to the city. The case is City of Modesto v Sanchez, no. 07-88.

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CA voting rights act only applies to at-large voting systems

(Yes, yes, I know that I still need to research the federal voting rights act and it’s impact on gerrymandering. Now I’ll also need to be aware of it’s impact on proportional representation systems.)

California has a voting rights act enacted in 2002. You can read about it at fairvote and at National Demographics Corporation (NDC) Research (and here is a pdf: NDC Research).

The act can cause local governments that use at-large methods of elections (as opposed to single-winner districts) and that have under-representation of minorities to have court enforced remedies imposed on them. The act implies that those remedies are typically the imposition of a single-winner districting solution.

The city of Modesto was sued in 2004 under this act and lost. They have a 25% Hispanic population but since 1911 one Hispanic city council-member has been elected for their at-large 5 member council. The city is counter suing and argues that the California Voting Rights Act violates the U.S. Constitution. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

The CA voting rights act seems to have a bias that at-large elections are the only source of distorted representation and that single winner districts is the preferred remedy. These assumptions should be questioned.