Santa Monica, Calif., with a “well-being index” to gauge the happiness of its residents and a fleet of city buses powered by natural gas, often lives up to its reputation as a wealthy, liberal enclave on California’s coast
But this month, a trial in a Los Angeles courtroom has put the seaside city on the same side as a conservative legal activist who is challenging the state’s voting-rights law.
The fight revolves around the city’s at-large election system for its seven City Council seats. Instead of winning office by capturing the majority in any particular district, council members are elected citywide.
The city is being sued in state court by Maria Loya, who argues she lost elections for City Council and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, which also elects its members citywide, because of the at-large system. Ms. Loya, who is Latina and lives in the city’s Pico neighborhood, which is historically Latino, ran for the council in 2004 and the college board in 2014.