Impressive Settlement Agreement Obtained on behalf of the City of Placentia

PLACENTIA, CA – On February 25, 2016, MALDEF and the City of Placentia reached an agreement on how to proceed with providing Latinos equal voting power, without going to court. The agreement calls for a host of actions to be taken by the Placentia City Council, including placing a Charter Amendment Measure on a statewide general or special election ballot that will convert the current at-large election system to one that is district-based. The new system would require that district lines be established by ordinance, and become effective for elections in November 2018 and thereafter.

“In an era when too many incumbents cling to power by suppressing the political power of minority voters, the City of Placentia has followed the far wiser and more productive path of reaching agreement on modernizing its election system to ensure that all communities are heard,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “This progressive step will benefit the entire City in the near future.”

In December, MALDEF sent a letter to the city council demanding that it implement a district-based election system in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) that provided Latino voters in Placentia an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice to the council.

MALDEF’s original claims challenging Placentia’s election system came after a thorough investigation confirmed complaints from Latino citizens and voters in the city that they were unable to elect Latino candidates to the city council. Placentia’s population is 36 percent Latino, but there are currently no Latino members on the five-seat council, and there has been only one Latino councilmember in the last two decades.

The intent of the agreement is to create an electoral map that includes one majority-Latino electoral district.

The agreement calls for new maps to be designed by a demographer contracted by Placentia, and for a minimum of two public hearings on a proposal to establish district boundaries prior to a city council vote. The council must make all information about the districting process available on its website, and official notices and agendas must be translated into all languages the federal Voting Rights Act requires.

“This is a great step forward for Placentia residents and will strengthen civic engagement on issues in that community,” said California LULAC State Director Dave Rodriguez.

“The City of Placentia’s decision to convert to district-based elections will ensure that all voters have an opportunity to participate meaningfully in elections in Placentia. This settlement highlights the importance of the CVRA and brings positive democratic change to the elections process,” said Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney.

The right to vote is fundamental to the strength of our democracy and must be protected for all citizens across the U.S. MALDEF has continually fought for equitable opportunity in elections systems for all communities throughout California, and will strive to protect the right to a political voice wherever it may be threatened.