A bill that would strengthen the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is on its way to the desk of Calif. Governor Jerry Brown for consideration. The bill won final legislative approval today in the State Senate. SB 1365 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would expand the CVRA by explicitly prohibiting school boards, cities, and counties from gerrymandering district boundaries in a manner that would weaken the ability of a racial or language minority to influence the outcome of an election. “With today’s vote, we are one step closer to strengthening voting rights in Californian,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As our state becomes increasingly diverse we must ensure that the rights of all voters are protected,” added Padilla.
In 2002, Governor Davis signed the CVRA, which expanded upon the federal Voting Rights Act by requiring that at-large elections not have the effect of diluting or denying the political representation of minority groups. The CVRA has been used to successfully protect voting rights throughout our state. When at-large elections are found to violate the CVRA, the most common remedy is to transition to district elections. In fact, 147 local government bodies have been challenged and have transitioned from at-large elections to district elections in California.
However, moving to district elections does not, in and of itself, guarantee that the new districts will be drawn in a way that protects the rights of minority voters. SB 1365 addresses this by extending the CVRA’s protections to district elections and empowering the courts to determine appropriate remedies to address voting rights violations.