“The imposition of at-large elections by the City of Orange has resulted in vote dilution for the Latino residents and has denied them effective political participation in elections to the five-member Orange City Council,” reads the Feb. 13 court filing by attorney Kevin Shenkman.
Shenkman is representing the Southwest Voter Education Representation Project (SVREP), a nonprofit that tries to increase Latino and other minority political participation through voter registration, networking and promote upcoming elections. The SVREP has also sued multiple cities across the state over at-large elections, including Mission Viejo.
Latinos make up 39 percent of Orange’s population, according to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Orange city officials said they won’t comment on the case because it the suit hasn’t been served to the city yet.
“Them not commenting and using the complaint hasn’t been served yet as an excuse is nonsense. This is not something that pops up all of a sudden … we tried to get them to switch their election system nearly two years ago. So, they know what the issues are, they know this is coming, not a surprise,” Shenkman said.
The city was sent a letter April 2017 by Shenkman, warning the at-large voting could be disenfranchising Latino voters and violating California Voting Rights Act.