Monrovia Receives Demand Letter From MALDEF. City to Hold Special Meeting Tuesday 5 p.m.
City Manager Oliver Chi has informed Monrovia residents that Thursday afternoon, the city received a demand letter from a group known as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF. In that letter, MALDEF has demanded that the City of Monrovia change our current at-large based system for electing city council members to a district-based electoral system.
A copy of the MALDEF letter is included below for your reference, and as you will note, the correspondence cites both the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and the lack of Latino representation on the city council as the basis for their demand. Furthermore, in their letter, MALDEF states their intention to seek judicial relief if they do not receive a satisfactory response from the city.
Chi said, “Here at the City, we are taking the issues raised by MALDEF seriously, especially in light of the fact that Monrovia has such a rich history of electing individuals that represent a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives to serve on the city council. To that end, we are currently coordinating a special meeting of the city council which will take Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Council Chambers.”
“Given the issues that MALDEF has raised and the manner in which those matters have been articulated, the special meeting will be held next week for the City Council to discuss this particular issue,” continued Mr. Chi. “We would note, however, that prior to receiving their letter on August 10, 2016, the City had not been contacted by any representatives from MALDEF, nor have we received any complaints about the City’s current at-large system for electing City Council members.”
Here’s the letter from MALDEF’s attorney:
Tom Adams. Mayor City of Monrovia
415 S. Ivy Avenue Monrovia, CA 91016
Re: Demand for Compliance with California Voting Rights Act
“Dear Mr. Adams:
We have received complaints from Latino voters in the City of Monrovia that the use of an at-large election system for the election of city council members results in Latino vote dilution and prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice. We reviewed demographic and electoral information pertaining to your jurisdiction with particular attention to the prohibitions of the California Voting Right Act of 2001 (“CVRA’). Based on our investigation, we believe that the City of Monrovia is in violation of the CVRA and must convert to a by-district election system.
The CVRA California Elections Code § 14027. states in relevant part:
An at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters who are members of a protected class …
Latino residents of the City of Monrovia are a ‘protected class’ within the meaning of the CVRA . U.S. Census population data shows that Latinos constitute 31.7 percent of the citizen voting age population of Monrovia. However, it appears that none of the five current members of the City Council is Latino and only one Latino individual has served on the City Council since 1999. Based on our review of election returns and demographic information- we believe that the lack of success of Latino candidates results from the inability of Latino voters to elect candidates of choice due to racially polarized voting among the electorate, and that continued use of at-large elections therefore violates the CVRA. We demand that the City convert its at-large election system to a district-based electoral system. Under the authority of Government code 34886, the City Council can effectuate that conversion by passage of a resolution, and we demand that it do so without delay.
We request your response to this demand by Aug. 24, 2016, In the absence of a satisfactory response, our clients will be forced to seek judicial relief in the form of an action to obtain an order converting the election system from at-large to by district, expert witness costs and attorneys’’ fees. The city can avoid the imposition of a judicially-mandated plan, including district maps designed and approved by the Court, by taking appropriate action without the filing of litigation.
We look forward to your response.”
Matthew J. Barragan