The city of Santa Monica filed a reply brief Tuesday asking the California Court of Appeals to overturn a trial court judgment that ruled the city’s electoral system diluting the voting power of Latino residents.

The city submitted the brief in response to a brief plaintiffs Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association filed as a reply to the city’s opening appellate brief. The brief maintains the city’s position that the trial court decision in favor of plaintiffs Maria Loya and the Pico Neighborhood Association should be overruled.

In February, Judge Yvette Palazuelos ruled that Santa Monica’s at-large election system, in which the entire population votes for all seven City Council members, violated the California Voting Rights Act by preventing the Latino community from electing their preferred candidates. Latino voters make up 13.6% of the voting-age population in Santa Monica, and the plaintiffs argue that because 30% live in the Pico neighborhood, their votes have been drowned out by ballots cast by the city’s white residents, who comprise 76% of the population.

The city appealed the court’s chosen remedy, which would compel the city to conduct elections using a seven-district map drawn by the plaintiffs’ expert. The appellate court ruled that the city will not have to hold a district election until the court issues a final decision by July 10, 2020.

The brief the city filed Tuesday contends that none of the alternative electoral systems proposed by the plaintiffs would enhance Latino voting strength in Santa Monica. The brief also argues Latino-preferred candidates have almost always won under Santa Monica’s current at-large election system.

“Replacing the at-large system chosen by the voters with the seven-district map drawn by the plaintiff’s expert without public input not only would be anti-democratic and unconstitutional, it would not lead to better outcomes for Latino voters, who consistently prevail in the current at-large system,” the city’s attorneys said in a statement.

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