A federal judge ruled late Friday that the the City of Pasadena promoted and implemented a voting plan intended to dilute Latino power at the polls. In a 113-page ruling (a link is below), U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal ordered city officials to revert to an eight-single-member City Council voting plan used before 2014. That was the year voters narrowly approved a plan that elected six members from districts and two at large. … Aside from restoring the previous voting plan, Rosenthal also said she will supervise the 2017 municipal elections in May and watch for any efforts to suppress Latino voting rights. The judge also ordered Pasadena to submit any future changes in its voting plan to the U.S. Justice Department for civil rights pre-clearance. One month after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell proposed changing the council’s structure to a mix of six single-member district seats and two at-large seats.
The plaintiffs–represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)–filed a lawsuit sued under the Voting Rights Act. They argued during the trial in late 2016 that Isbell forced a ballot measure through the city’s council, over the objections of its Latino-backed members. Voters approved the measure, in an election that broke largely on racial lines.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys also accused the mayor of using city funds and resources to mobilize Anglo voters on Pasadena’s south side to support the ballot measure. The result, the plaintiffs said, is that in 2015 Latinos lost–by a handful of votes–a council seat they’d previously been favored to win.