The city of Anaheim is in talks to settle a lawsuit filed by the ACLU accusing the city’s election system of violating the state’s Voting Rights Act.
The case is set to go to trial in March but key hearings and depositions have been delayed because the parties appear to be moving toward a deal, according to court records and a plaintiff.
“For me, certainly, any settlement talks are about the city agreeing toward the direction of establishing districts, authentic districts, where the representatives are voted for by the residents of those districts,” said plaintiff Jose Moreno.
The ACLU filed the case on behalf of Moreno and two other Latino residents of Anaheim last year in an effort to end the city’s at-large elections. Anaheim is the largest city in California that still elects its leaders at large rather than by districts.
Latinos make up nearly 53% of the city’s population but less than half of eligible voters. Only a few Latinos have ever been elected to the city council.
A Los Angeles Times analysis showed the city is deeply segregated along ethnic and economic lines.
Last week, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the city of Palmdale to hold new elections after he found the city’s at-large election system to be unlawful.
In July, the Anaheim City Council rejected a recommendation by a council-appointed citizens commission to allow voters to decide whether to create council districts. Instead, it adopted an election model that maintained at-large voting but imposed residency requirements. The plaintiffs rejected that model, saying it did not address their concerns.
Anaheim City Atty. Michael Houston declined to comment on the pending litigation and an attorney for the ACLU did not respond to an email and phone call requesting comment.
In mid-October the plaintiffs asked the court to delay hearings and depositions because lawyers on both sides had entered into discussions “that could lead to a resolution of the case,” according to court records.
In November, Anaheim asked to further delay hearings, saying the parties were engaged in discussions that could make the hearings moot.
The city’s charter requires significant changes to its election system to be approved by voters, meaning that any settlement moving toward district-based voting would likely require the city to put the question on the ballot.