Palmdale can vote, but will it count? Court to decide

Palmdale voters can cast their ballots in the city election Tuesday. They can even find out the results. But it will be up to the courts to decide whether the election is legitimate.

Voters can choose from among four candidates for mayor and fill two seats on the City Council from among another four candidates. But because of an ongoing lawsuit, the winning candidates cannot be seated unless the courts say so.

A Superior Court judge ruled last summer that Palmdale's at-large system of electing city officials was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act in that it denied minorities the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing. In October, while he was trying to decide what steps Palmdale should take to remedy the situation. Judge Mark V. Mooney granted the plaintiffs' request to halt the election.

An appellate court allowed the election to proceed but made it clear it would decide after the balloting whether the results could be certified.

Since then, the city has been pulling out all the stops to let voters know they can cast their ballots Tuesday, running radio, TV and local newspaper ads as well as using Facebook and message street signs.

Other Palmdale area elections--including those for four school districts, the Antelope Valley Community College District and the Quartz Hill Water District, are not included in the appellate court matter.

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is handling the Palmdale elections, along with those in scores of other local city, school board and special districts races Tuesday.

"Because of the late actions by the court, the city council [and mayor] contest will appear on the ballot," according to Elizabeth Knox, public information officer for the registrar's office. The county will tabulate those votes and report the result, she added, but "the city is ordered not to certify that result."

The appellate court promised it would settle the certification question "on a priority basis."

Meantime, the trial court is preparing to issue its remedy for the voting rights act violations. The city has said it will appeal once the trial court acts.


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