A court of appeals has issued a tentative ruling overturning the trial court’s order that would force Santa Monica to move to district based elections. 

The lawsuit over the California Voting Rights Act reached the appeal court on June 30 and at the start of the oral arguments, the judges announced their tentative ruling favored the city. 

“We believe the tentative ruling is correct and are confident that following oral argument scheduled for June 30 it will become final,” said City Spokeswoman Constance Farrell. “Santa Monica’s at-large City Council election system, originally chosen and twice validated by Santa Monica voters, complies with the law.  Santa Monica is committed to fair and just electoral representation for every member of our community.  The at-large election system was neither established nor maintained for a discriminatory purpose, has repeatedly elected candidates preferred by Latino voters, and has not diluted Latino voting power. In contrast, the districts drawn by the plaintiffs and adopted by the trial court would dilute Latino voting power.”

Trial for the CVRA lawsuit began on Aug. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles Superior Court and the City of Santa Monica lost. The city was ordered to conduct a district-based election on July 2, 2019. It was also ordered that no City Council members elected at-large could continue to hold their seats past August 15, 2019. However an appeal was filed by city attorneys temporarily preserving the status quo.

Both sides are hopeful the judge will issue a ruling by early July and in May 2019, the court gave the city of Santa Monica calendar preference to expedite briefing and argument in order to facilitate a November 2020 Council election.