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California

Lawmakers OK bill to increase minority representation on city councils

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Outside the state Capitol in Sacramento this summer. Lawmakes on Tuesday approved legislation intended to increase minority represenatives on city councils.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The California Legislature on Tuesday sent the governor a bill aimed at improving minority voter representation on city councils.

The measure, SB 493 by Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), allows city councils for general law municipalities with fewer than 100,000 residents to switch their at-large elections to district elections without have to get voter approval.

In at-large elections, candidates are elected by a citywide vote. In district elections, municipalities are carved up into districts, and candidates run to represent one of those areas.

Voters have filed lawsuits in several cities arguing that at-large elections prevent minority groups from electing candidates representing their communities.

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“Cities need the tools to take steps to protect their residents and taxpayers from costly lawsuits,” Cannella said.  “If the state can give options to city council members that help save time and money while protecting residents, there is no reason we should not do this.  City funds are better spent on the needs of the city, not on lawsuits and settlement fees.”

The vote was 35-4. The Assembly approved the legislation in early September. The bill now heads to the governor for consideration.


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