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Sulphur Springs to move to district elections, pay attorney’s fees as part of settlement

Posted: March 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The Sulphur Springs School District will split itself into voting districts and pay more than $144,000 in plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs as part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging California Voting Rights Act violations, according to a settlement agreement.

The elementary school district that takes in most of Canyon Country will transition from its current at-large election system — wherein all voters can cast ballots for every open seat on the district’s board during a given election — to a by-trustee-area election system, meaning voters in a trustee area will elect a trustee to represent that area.

The change comes as a result of a settlement agreement hammered out by the district and plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that the current at-large election system violated provisions of the California Voting Rights Act by preventing Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice.

The new election system will be in place in 2015, in time for the next district board election that same year, according to the agreement.

Along with the election changes, Sulphur Springs will also pay out $144,948 in plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs.
Sulphur Springs, along with the city of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Community College District, were named last year in Voting Rights Act lawsuits, all alleging the government agencies’ election systems denied equal access to Latino voters.

Santa Clarita recently announced a settlement in its lawsuit proposing two ways to satisfy plaintiffs.

The first method calls for the city to change its election dates from April to November of even-numbered years in anticipation of drawing more voters to participate in the process.

Another change in city elections to be considered under the settlement agreement is adoption of a “cumulative voting method.” Such a method would allow voters to cast multiple ballots for a single candidate, rather than limiting them to one vote per candidate.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the suit against the city released a statement calling those measures an “interim agreement” and a “provisional step” in a statement.

“In the event that the cumulative voting method proves to be an ineffective voting rights instrument that has failed to elect a select number of Latino(s) to the City Council, we will return once again to seek legal compliance by the City Council of the Voters Rights Act,” the statement reads.

A collection of Santa Clarita Valley agencies, including the Sulphur Springs district, unsuccessfully petitioned Los Angeles County last year to change their election dates to even-numbered years, saying higher-profile races such as those for president or governor would likely boost voter turnout.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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