Calling it an effort to strengthen the California Voting Rights Act and address the problem that “it’s difficult for people of color to get elected,” Assemblyman Roger Hernandez says he plans to introduce legislation that would require cities with populations of 100,000 or more to hold district-based municipal elections. The bill, the Municipal Fair Representation Act, as currently written would apply only to general law cities, such as West Covina, El Monte, Fontana, Ontario, and Rancho Cucamonga. It would not apply to cities that are established under charters. “It’s important that we do our best as governmental leaders to have voting systems in place to give our diverse populations the best chance of having reflective representation,” Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in a telephone interview Friday. An aide said Hernandez plans to introduce the legislation in January.
The announcement comes as several Los Angeles-area cities, including Whittier, Compton, Anaheim and Palmdale are facing lawsuits, or have been involved in suits, seeking to have their at-large voting systems tossed and replaced with district-based voting systems. Under the California Voting Rights Act, if an at-large system is found to be racially polarizing, they must be replaced with district-based systems.
Hernandez’s legislation would expand the law by not requiring a showing of racial polarization to impose a district-based voting system, according to Paul Mitchell, of Redistricting Partners, a Sacramento consulting firm on redistricting and California Voting Rights Act issues.
Twenty-three cities in California would be affected by the legislation, according to Redistricting Partners.