In Fascinating Case, Judge Orders New Elections in Palmdale under CA Voting Rights Act

A Los Angeles County superior court judge has issued this tentative remedial order (following this ruling on the merits) that the City of Palmdale’s at large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act. I am about to talk about this on KPCC.  (Update: You should be able to listen to the archived interview a bit later here.)

Here is the Daily News story; here is the one in the LA Times.

There are many fascinating issues, assuming this tentative ruling becomes final.  Can the judge throw out the results of the recent election as a CVRA remedy? (The judge tried to block the election, but a divided appellate court reversed. UPDATE: Kevin Shenkman clarifies: The appellate court did not reverse any ruling by Judge Mooney. 2 of 3 appellate judges interpreted Judge Mooney’s order as prohibiting only the certification of the election, and on that basis denied Defendant’s petition for writ of supersedeas. The election has not been, and will not be, certified, absent further action by a court.)

The judge said incumbency could not be a factor to be considered in drawing the lines.  For this reason, and others, the judge rejected the City’s proposed plan. Will that stand up on appeal?  More broadly, the CVRA gives broad remedial powers to the judges in these cases.  How should they be exercised? (Neither party in this case, for example, preferred a cumulative voting remedy.)

Finally, and most significantly, the California Voting Rights Act imposes standards which are much easier to meet than the federal voting rights standards.  If someone brought a federal constitutional equal protection challenge against the Act, will it stand?  The Supreme Court a few years ago refused to take a CVRA case, but another case might fare better, especially in a post-Shelby County world.

 

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