A judge’s halting of Palmdale’s November election could have implications for other cities facing lawsuits under the California Voting Rights Act. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney on Monday canceled the election after earlier finding that Palmdale’s at-large method of choosing council members deprived minority voters of the opportunity to elect a representative of their choice. Officials plan to appeal, with City Atty. Matthew Ditzhazy calling the ruling “wildly unprecedented and radical.” Some voters already have been sent mail-in ballots, he said. Activists seeking minority representation on city councils, school boards and other governmental bodies have been pushing for by-district elections throughout California. Ethnically diverse jurisdictions that hold at-large elections and have few, if any, minority officeholders are especially vulnerable under state law, experts said.
Whittier also is being sued under the decade-old Voting Rights Act. Officials there have called a June special election to ask voters whether it should switch to balloting by district — but the city’s scheduled April municipal election will be under at-large voting rules.
Mooney had ruled that Palmdale’s at-large election system undermined opportunities for its minority residents to choose someone they believe would best represent their interests. And on Monday he granted the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to stop the election.