Earlier this month, Santa Clarita settled a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit, and in doing so became the first city in California to embrace innovative election rules that could point the way to a more representative politics. The lawsuit, filed last year, grew out of major demographic changes in the city. Not only had Santa Clarita grown by more than 60% since 1990; it had also seen a sharp increase in the city’s non-white population, which went from 31% to 44% over a 10-year period, with Latinos now making up almost a third of the city. But as the city’s ethnic composition changed, the makeup of the five-person City Council did not. Today’s council remains entirely Caucasian.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs argued that Santa Clarita’s method for electing the City Council was the crucial factor preventing racial minority representation. Santa Clarita council seats are “at large,” meaning that all voters in the city can cast ballots for all open seats, and that council members represent the city as a whole rather than a smaller district within the city. If three seats, say, are open, voters can choose up to three candidates, but they can only cast one of their votes per candidate.
This system allows a cohesive group with a bare majority of citywide votes — white voters, say — to win 100% of the representation. If voting patterns are polarized along racial lines, as the plaintiffs argued is the case in Santa Clarita, bloc voting leads to monopoly control for the dominant racial group.
Full Article: Santa Clarita goes beyond one man, one vote – latimes.com.