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Castaic Union School District tables election debate to July meeting

Posted: June 23, 2014 8:22 p.m.
Updated: June 23, 2014 8:22 p.m.

Members of the Castaic Union School District decided Monday night they need more information about by-district elections and California’s Voting Rights Act before they discuss the possibility of changing the district’s at-large election system.

The special board meeting began at 6 p.m. — and by 6:08 p.m., it was over. Members had discussed and addressed half a dozen “action items” on the agenda but decided to table the matter of the Voting Rights Act until the next regularly scheduled meeting July 17.

That’s the “first (regularly) scheduled meeting since we got the letter,” board President David Huffaker said, referring to a letter sent out to four Santa Clarita Valley school districts earlier this month threatening legal action if they don’t consider abandoning their at-large election systems.

Shenkman & Hughes of Malibu, the law firm that sued three Santa Clarita Valley government agencies last summer over their election systems, issued the letters urging board members to discuss ways of making voter representation fairer for Hispanics and avoid running afoul of the California Voting Rights Act.

The law firm proposed the school districts consider dividing themselves into separate voting districts, with voters able to cast ballots only for a representative in the district where they live.

The at-large system, favored by municipalities in the Santa Clarita Valley, allows all voters within a government agency’s boundaries to vote for all seats up for election.

The letters went out to the William S. Hart Union High School District and the Newhall, Saugus Union and Castaic Union elementary school districts.

The letters from attorney Kevin Shenkman allege that the SCV’s favored at-large election system “dilutes the ability of minority residents — particularly Latinos — to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome” of elections.

Shenkman & Hughes previously filed lawsuits against the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Community College District and Sulphur Springs School District alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act.

Settlements have been worked out with all three, although only one — Sulphur Springs — agreed to switch to by-district elections.

Board members for the Hart district have announced they will consider moving to a by-district election system. The Hart school district is the Santa Clarita Valley’s largest.




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