A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, who earlier this year found the city of Palmdale to be in violation of the California Voting Rights Act, has ordered the city to hold a new by-district election for its four City Council posts. In a ruling dated last week and received by the involved parties over the weekend, Judge Mark V. Mooney ordered that the special election, to replace the balloting for council seats held last month, is to be conducted June 3, the same day as the California primary. Future elections are to be held in November of even-numbered years, to dovetail with state and federal balloting, in the expectation that such coordination will increase voter turnout. The judge allowed Palmdale to continue to elect its mayor by voters throughout the city. That means Mayor James Ledford’s recent reelection will not be affected by the ruling.
A Palmdale official on Monday reaffirmed the city’s intention to appeal the trial court’s finding that the practice of electing council members at large, rather than by geographic district, deprives minorities of an opportunity to elect candidates they feel can best represent them. “We’re still analyzing the opinion and our options,” Assistant City Atty. Noel Doran said Monday. “We’ve needed this ruling … so we can appeal the entire matter.”
As yet unclear is what, if any, effect a pending appellate court decision on whether to certify last month’s election will have on the case.
The city’s election system has been under attack since last year, when several minority residents filed suit claiming that the method of electing officials from across the city diluted their ability to participate in government. About two-thirds of residents are minorities, but voters had chosen only one Latino for office since its 1962 incorporation.