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City Says No Remedy Needed in Voting Rights Case


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December 3, 2018 -- There is no appropriate remedy in the voting rights lawsuit against the City and no need for the judge to impose one before a planned appeal becomes final, according to a brief filed by the City Friday.

In the brief, the City argues that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence at trial demonstrating that Santa Monica's current at-large election system has led to polarized voting or diluted Latino votes.

"Because no finding of liability can reasonably or lawfully be premised on the evidence adduced at trail, there is no basis for ordering any remedy," the City's attorneys wrote.

The brief -- which echoes the City's opening argument in the six-week trial -- comes after Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos found Santa Monica's at-large election system violated the California Voters Rights Act (CVRA).

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She also found the City had deliberately discriminated against minority voters by refusing to implement district elections ("Plaintiffs Win Voting Rights Suit Against the City of Santa Monica," November 13, 2018).

“The City believes that the evidence presented at trial shows that the City’s election system is fair, inclusive and fully complies with California law,” City Attorney Lane Dilg said in a statement issued Monday.

The City has asked Palazuelos to explain the basis for tentative decision and plans to appeal if the decision becomes final ("City Asks Judge to Explain Voting Rights Lawsuit Decision," November 19, 2018 and "City Plans to Appeal Decision in Voting Rights Case," November 13, 2018).

If Palazuelos finalizes her ruling, the City will ask her to reject a map proposed by the plaintiffs and order a full public process ("Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Suit Propose District Map, April Election," November 20, 2018)..

The Court should give the City 120 days "from the date the judgment becomes final (with appellate rights exhausted)" to propose a districting plan, according to the City's brief.

City Attorney Lane Dilg said in a statement Monday that the judge ."should order the City to undertake a democratic process -- open to the public -- to determine, subject to judicial review, where district lines should be drawn.”

The plaintiff's map -- which was drawn by demographer David Ely -- carves the 8.3-square-mile City of some 92,000 into seven districts with approximately 13,000 residents each ("Proposed Santa Monica Council Map Places Three Incumbents in One District," November 26, 2018).

Kevin Shenkman, the lead attorney for plaintiffs Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association, said the City is stalling.

"They want to delay as long as possible," he said. "If they get their way, it could easily go for another seven or eight years."

Shenkman said the City could have implemented their own district map after previous calls for district elections.

"They don't need a court to order them to undertake a democratic process," Shenkman said. "They haven't proposed a map. What they're proposing is that the court forestall this for years."

In its brief to the court Friday, as well as during the trail, the City says it has shown that Latino representation on the Council "exceeds the Latino/a citizen voting age population of the City," officials said

They also say the evidence presented at trial "shows that Latino-preferred candidates have consistently won seats on the Santa Monica City Council and other City governing boards."

The judge has set a hearing to propose an appropriate remedy for December 7.

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