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UPDATE: Palmdale ordered to hold new municipal elections

Posted: December 2, 2013 2:19 p.m.
Updated: December 2, 2013 5:47 p.m.

Palmdale was ordered to hold a new election for City Council members next year after a Superior Court judge concluded there was discrimination against black and Latino voters in November citywide races.

“The current members of the Palmdale City Council were elected through an unlawful election,” Judge Mark V. Mooney wrote in his seven-page ruling issued Friday.

The same judge ruled in July that Palmdale’s elections are illegal because they are held “at large” and thus violate California’s Voting Rights Act, according to a lawsuit filed against Palmdale and several other municipal governments in California.
Palmdale officials, however, said they would go through with the scheduled November elections.

The term “at-large” means all the voters within a voting area cast ballots for all candidates running, and the ones with the highest number of votes win. A lawsuit filed against Palmdale by a Malibu legal firm seeks to force Palmdale to adopt by-district elections, which the lawyers say gives minorities a greater chance of winning.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against the city of Santa Clarita, College of the Canyons and Canyon Country’s Sulphur Springs School District. Most other municipal districts in the Santa Clarita Valley also use at-large election systems.

Last month the ABC Unified School District in Cerritos announced it would not fight a similar lawsuit and began drawing up boundaries for by-district elections.

Judge Mooney scheduled a new election for Palmdale to coincide with California’s statewide primary on June 3.
Palmdale officials said they plan to appeal, adding that they do not believe the current method of electing council members by a citywide vote is discriminatory.

The proof of that, Deputy City Attorney Noel Doran said Monday, is that a black resident, Frederic Thompson, was elected to the City Council last month. Thompson has not yet been sworn into office.

“Now this is preventing him from taking his position,” Doran said of the judge’s ruling.

Palmdale has a population of 155,000 people and is about 25 percent white, 15 percent black and 54 percent Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.





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