Anaheim is in talks to settle a lawsuit filed by the ACLU accusing the city of effectively excluding Latinos from holding political office and violating the California Voting Rights Act. The case is set to go to trial in March but key hearings and depositions have been delayed because the parties appear to be moving toward a deal, according to court records and a plaintiff. “For me, certainly, any settlement talks are about the city agreeing toward the direction of establishing districts, authentic districts, where the representatives are voted for by the residents of those districts,” said Jose Moreno, a plaintiff in the suit. The ACLU filed the case on behalf of Moreno and two other Latino residents of Anaheim last year in an effort to end the city’s at-large elections. Anaheim is the largest city in California that still elects its leaders at large rather than by districts.
Latinos make up nearly 53% of the city’s population but less than half of eligible voters. Only a few Latinos have ever been elected to the City Council. A Los Angeles Times analysis in 2012 showed the city is deeply segregated along ethnic and economic lines.
In July, the Anaheim City Council rejected a recommendation by a council-appointed citizens commission to allow voters to decide whether to create council districts. Instead, it adopted an election model that maintained at-large voting but imposed residency requirements. The plaintiffs rejected that model, saying it did not address their concerns.
Cities and boards across the state have been under growing pressure to abandon at-large voting and adopt districts.