Under threat of litigation, cities statewide are shifting to district elections, a wave that will likely sweep up Carpinteria whether its elected officials like it or not. The Carpinteria City Council held a special meeting on July 31 to discuss adopting district elections in order to avoid a lawsuit and increase Latino voices on the city council.
“It’s a matter of reaching a balance, of equal representation,” said Francisco Gonzalez, a lifelong Carpinterian and one of two plaintiffs for the potential lawsuit. “Latinos make up half of this community, and they’re struggling.”
A letter received by the city on July 5 threatens legal action unless the city corrects an alleged violation of the California Voting Rights Act. The act that was signed into law in 2002 has been used to change voting systems in dozens of California cities where “racially polarized voting” constitutes a violation. In Carpinteria, which is nearly 50 percent Latino, only a handful of Latinos have been elected to the Carpinteria City Council, and no Latino or Hispanic has been elected to the Carpinteria City Council since 2008.
Since its incorporation in 1965, Carpinteria has had an at-large voting system, whereby voters elect all five members of the city council. In a district election, the city would be divided into jurisdictions, and residents of those areas would elect a single representative. Potential plaintiffs Gonzales and Jatzibe Sandoval have indicated that they would be amenable to creating five districts in Carpinteria, or four with a…
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