A new lawsuit claims the city of Santa Clara’s at-large elections violate state law by systematically discriminating against Asian-Americans. The city’s winner-take-all system dilutes minority votes and has prevented Asian-Americans from ever being elected to the City Council, according to the complaint filed last week by retired social worker Wes Mukoyama. In 2016 alone, five Asian-American candidates lost despite the fact that almost 40 percent of the city and a third of its electorate is of Asian descent. “Something is wrong when such a sizeable Asian-American population cannot elect candidates of its choice,” said Mukoyama, who’s represented by civil rights attorney Robert Rubin and the nonprofit Asian Law Alliance.
The California Voting Rights Act prohibits at-large elections in jurisdictions with racially polarized voting patterns, which, according to the lawsuit, persist in Santa Clara. Not a single Asian-American has won a seat on the council since at least 1951, when Santa Clara adopted its city charter.
“It is unconscionable that the city would allow such wide scale disenfranchisement of such a significant segment of its population,” said Rubin, who successfully resolved more than a dozen voting rights cases in California. “It is particularly troublesome because the discrimination is based upon race.”