The city of Anaheim will ask voters to decide in November whether to create electoral districts in order to settle a voting rights lawsuit that claimed Latinos were politically disadvantaged in the city’s at-large elections.
The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2012 on behalf of three residents who accused the city of violating the California Voting Rights Act. It came at a time when turbulent protests over the police shootings of two Latino men had roiled the city and exposed deep divisions between the city’s affluent communities and its less-prosperous Latino neighborhoods.
Latinos now make up nearly 53% of the city’s population, but few Latinos have ever been elected to the City Council.
Anaheim City Atty. Michael Houston announced the settlement at the start of a council meeting Tuesday evening.
Council members said they voted unanimously to settle the case.
“You the voters will be able to decide just how you want the city of Anaheim to move forward,” said Councilwoman Lucille Kring.
The city’s charter requires that changes to its election system be approved by voters. Last year, a majority of the council rejected a proposal to allow a citywide vote on districts.
If the November ballot measure is approved, Anaheim must have districts in place by the 2016 election.
“Today is an important day for Anaheim,” said Mayor Tom Tait. “It is the right thing to do, but frankly I am disappointed that it took so long to get there. … We spent perhaps more than $2 million of taxpayer money fighting this case.”
Anaheim is the largest city in California that still elects its leaders at-large.