A Los Angeles County judge ruled that Palmdale would not be able to have a City Council election in November, an attorney suing over a California Voting Rights Act violation said Monday.
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After about an hour of oral arguments Monday, Judge Mark Mooney, who already found Palmdale in violation of the CVRA with its at-large elections, said the city would not be able to proceed with their regularly scheduled elections.
“The judge found that holding this election would cause voter confusion and more electoral chaos than not holding this election, particularly because this is an illegal election,” said Kevin Shenkman of Shenkman and Hughes.
Palmdale city officials called the ruling “unprecedented,” and “wildly radical” in a news release.
“Since Palmdale’s election has already begun, we encourage those who have received their absentee ballots to vote and mail in their ballots,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. “The city of Palmdale wants to protect the Constitutional rights of its residents to have their voice heard through the voting process.”
The case is of particular interest to Santa Clarita Valley officials as well, because three local governing boards have also been sued by the same attorneys.
Palmdale city officials asked for a stay and for the plaintiffs to post a $150,000 bond, but Mooney denied both requests.
The judge suggested that the recommended remedies for the violation should include voter districts, Shenkman said.
“It seems to me based on a couple of the things (Mooney) said today, that he wants districts
and the remedies that don’t involve districts are not going to be listened to by him,” Shenkman said.
Mooney ruled July 25 that Palmdale was in violation of the CVRA with its at-large elections, showing racially polarized voting was denying minorities access to the electoral system.
In order to address the violation, city officials must propose changes to their electoral process, the judge ruled.
“After an eight-day trial in May and a careful analysis of the evidence and the law, the court found that the city of Palmdale is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act,” Shenkman said, “and that the California Voting Rights Act is constitutional in its application to the city of Palmdale.”
After the initial ruling, Ditzhazy criticized the merits of the suit.
“Lawyers Shenkman and Parris are using a poorly drafted statute as a pretext for a huge attorney’s fee windfall at the expense of the taxpayers,” Ditzhazy said in a previous statement. “This lawsuit has never been about white, black or brown — only green.”
Critics have said the California Voting Rights Act is overly broad, making it “incredibly easy” for suits to be brought forth.
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Source: Santa Clarita News