Palmdale officials Wednesday night announced that they have agreed to major changes in their elections system, settling a widely watched lawsuit over minority representation and the California Voting Rights Act. Until now, Palmdale was a lone holdout in a string of lawsuits filed against cities that resisted district voting, which backers say helps minority groups gain elected office. The city agreed to align its balloting to coincide with state and federal general elections, starting in November 2016. It also agreed to have voters choose elected officials by four geographic districts, including two with Latino majorities, rather than from the city as a whole.
Palmdale also will pay $4.5 million plus interest to lawyers for the three minority plaintiffs who argued that the city’s at-large voting system deprived them of opportunities to elect representatives of their choice.
The current City Council members will continue to serve until the next election, when the balloting for mayor — elected at large every two years — also will be held. Council terms can be staggered after that, according to the agreement.
The settlement represents the end of a three-year court battle and a major victory for voting rights activists.