Voting rights activists seek governor's help in Palmdale case

Activists ask the governor to intervene in Palmdale voting rights case

Voting rights activists on Thursday petitioned the governor to intervene in their battle with the city of Palmdale over its method of electing officials.

Nearly 200 Palmdale voters signed the petition asking the governor to exercise authority under state Elections Code Sections 10300-10312, according to Kevin I. Shenkman, an attorney for the plaintiffs who sued the city. 

They want Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint a three-member commission to oversee a new election for the Palmdale City Council.  Shenkman said the petition drive was spearheaded by the Antelope Valley chapters of the NAACP and LULAC and the African American Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

The plaintiffs said the city's at-large elections system denies its substantial numbers of Latino and African American voters the opportunity to elect representatives of their choice. 

Last year, a Superior Court judge ruled that the city was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act and ordered the city to hold a new election with council members chosen by geographic district. He said the current council members could not hold office after July 9.

The city has appealed and has continued to conduct business thorugh its at-large council. Activists are planning to ask the court to hold the officials in contempt, Shenkman said.

"These are simply more efforts by an assortment of plaintiff's attorneys to circumvent the California Constitution," Palmdale City Atty. Matthew Ditzhazy said in a statement.  

He noted the city has asked the state Supreme Court to review appeal court rulings that sided with the trial court.

Ditzhazy called the effort to get an election commission appointed for the city "nothing more than a misguided political sideshow."

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