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June trial date expected in COC Voting Rights Act lawsuit

Posted: May 14, 2014 6:33 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:33 p.m.

A trial is scheduled to begin in June in the case of a lawsuit against the Santa Clarita Community College District alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act.

In a tentative ruling dated Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu denied a motion for summary judgment in the case, clearing the way for a trial date of June 2 on the matter.

“The case isn’t over and we continue to be optimistic,” College of the Canyons spokesman Eric Harnish said Wednesday.

The lawsuit against the district, which encompasses both COC campuses, was one of three filed against Santa Clarita Valley government agencies last summer.

Lawsuits were also filed against the city of Santa Clarita and the Sulphur Springs School District.

In all three cases, the lawsuits alleged that the at-large methods of electing council or board members — whereby voters can cast ballots for every seat up for election in a given year — violated the California Voting Rights Act by preventing Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice.

Earlier this year the Sulphur Springs district announced a settlement agreement in the case filed against it. The district agreed to pay more than $144,000 in plaintiffs’ attorney fees and costs, and to switch to a by-trustee-area election system, meaning voters in a trustee area will elect a trustee to represent a designated area of the district.

Each voter will be able to cast a ballot only for a trustee candidate to represent his or her area.

The city also announced a settlement agreement earlier this year, saying it would change the date of Santa Clarita City Council elections from April to November of even-numbered years and pursue cumulative voting, a system whereby voters could cast as many votes as there are seats up for election in a given year, including multiple votes for the same candidate.

Kevin Shenkman, an attorney with the Malibu-based firm that represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against COC — and represented plaintiffs in the suits against Sulphur Springs and the city, as well — could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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