City Hall is asking a state court to rule on its appeal of the voting rights case it has been fighting for almost two years by July 2020.
A trial court judge ruled Feb. 15 that the City of Santa Monica’s at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) because it suppresses the voting power of the Santa Monica’s Latino population. The ruling prohibited councilmembers who were elected in at-large elections from serving past Aug. 15 and ordered the City to hold a special election on July 2 to elect councilmembers according to a seven-district map drawn by the plaintiffs in the case, Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association.
Last month, however, the California Court of Appeals ruled that all councilmembers will keep their seats until it issues a final decision on the appeal. The City requested Monday that the Court set an expedited schedule for the case that would result in a decision by July 10, 2020 so it can hold its next Council election on the next regularly scheduled election date, in November 2020. Four councilmembers will be up for reelection.
“Following the regular election schedule would increase voter engagement and turnout, provide voters with their expected opportunity to regularly select their Council members, and avoid the expenditure of public funds on a special election on a different date,” the City’s attorney Theodore Boutrous wrote in the motion.
The plaintiffs plan to file a response to the motion by the end of the week, said attorney Kevin Shenkman. It will indicate that the plaintiffs believe a request for calendar preference is appropriate but will suggest a shorter timeline, he said.
“We do agree the matter should be decided promptly, but for very different reasons,” Shenkman said.
Some members of Council have taken the position that if the appellate court rules that the City must switch to district elections, it should allow the City time to solicit input from the public on how the election will be conducted.