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Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Suit Propose District Map, April Election


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November 20, 2018 -- Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit against the City asked the judge on Monday to adopt seven council districts and hold a special election in April.

They also asked Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos to prohibit any further at-large elections and any council member not duly elected through district-based elections from serving.

The brief filed by lead attorney Kevin Shenkman was in response to the judge's request for remedies after she ruled on November 8 that the City had violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

Palazuelos also ruled that 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 has said it plans to appeal and last week asked the judge to clarify her two-page decision ("City Plans to Appeal Decision in Voting Rights Case," November 13, 2018 and "City Asks Judge to Explain Voting Rights Lawsuit Decision," November 19, 2018).

"It is time to put an end to Defendant's illegal election scheme," Shenkman wrote. "The residents of Santa Monica deserve seven legally-elected council members to represent their interest."

Shenkman asked the court to take prompt action and, based on the CVRA, to "implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections, that are tailored to remedy the violations."

"Prompt implementation of the seven-district plan presented at trial will be the most effective in remedying the vote dilution in Defendant's city council elections," Shenkman wrote.

The remedies, he said "should be prompt and complete and remedy past harm as well as prevent future violations."

"Courts have consistently held that if intentional racial discrimination is shown, 'the racial discrimination must be eliminated root and branch' by 'a remedy that will fully correct past wrong," the attorneys wrote, quoting case law.

While the court has the power to "declare that the current council members are no longer members of the council," Shenkman said the plaintiffs would not seek such "drastic action."

While removing sitting council members "could have the undesired effect of disrupting the city government," he said "it is critical" that a new council be elected "promptly."

The City will file a response to the plaintiffs' remedy brief with the court on November 30, a City spokesperson said.

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

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