A judge Monday ordered federal oversight of the city of Pasadena’s election system for the next 6½ years, the latest development in a landmark voting rights case that has highlighted contentious racial politics in the blue-collar suburb and beyond. In a final judgment issued Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal said the court would keep jurisdiction over Pasadena until June 30, 2023, to ensure “the city cannot immediately return to a map and plan that thwarts Latinos on the cusp of an electoral majority.” The ruling – issued on a federal holiday recognizing the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., whose civil rights crusade led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – said the city must seek “preclearance” from the U.S. attorney general or from the court before changing its election system.
“Voting is a fundamental right,” Rosenthal said in the five-page judgment. “The vote dilution irreparably injures the plaintiffs’ right to vote and to have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.”
The judgment came just two days before registration begins for candidates in the May city elections, where all the council positions and the mayor’s seat are on the ballot.