Opinion: Don’t expect more Latinos to be elected immediately after switching from at-large districts

Jose Moreno is joined by members of the community at a news conference in 2014 to announce an agreement with the Anaheim mayor and City Council to put the issue of district elections on the ballot later that year. Moreno was elected to the council last November.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: We should not evaluate the success of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) by whether Latino candidates are elected in the very first municipal election following conversion from an at-large to a districted system. (“A voting law meant to increase minority representation has generated many more lawsuits than seats for people of color,” April 9)

The CVRA is designed to facilitate long-term change in local jurisdictions that have failed to include elected representatives favored by minority voters over many years. The effect of at-large voting where minority voters are always outvoted is often to dampen minority participation.

Conversion under the CVRA to district elections may not lead to more Latino elected officials in the first election for a number of reasons. First, the jurisdiction must have at least one district where Latinos are a majority of the citizen voting-age population, or the Latino voting community could still be outvoted in every district. Second, because jurisdictions stagger terms of elected officials, the Latino-majority district might not be up for election in the first municipal election following conversion. Third, the Latino voters’ choice might not be Latino.


Finally, the community may need more time to increase engagement to be able to elect a candidate it supports. This impediment may be largely the result of dysfunctional at-large elections in the first place.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund takes all of these matters into consideration before challenging any at-large election system.

Thomas A. Saenz, Alhambra

The writer is president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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