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Santa Clarita Sued Over Civil Rights Discrimination Claim

The city of Santa Clarita is being sued over civil rights discrimination, Santa Clarita City Attorney Joe Montes said Wednesday.

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The lawsuit contends that the city's system of at-large elections provides for a "lack of access" to Latino voters, who have never been represented in Santa Clarita's City Council. 

“We just received the complaint,” Montes said, noting that the lawsuit was filed June 20 and the city was served Wednesday.

“We’re analyzing it -- we’ll be briefing the council at an upcoming meeting, and beyond that, we don’t have any comment at this time,” he said.

The lawsuit seeks "district-based elections," according to legal documents.  

The plaintiffs, listed as Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser, are represented by Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster, who filed a similar suit against Palmdale.

The lawsuit is being brought for “a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 2001,” according to the lawsuit.

“The effects of the city’s at-large method of election are compelling,” the lawsuit states. “Despite a Latino population of approximately 30 percent in the city of Santa Clarita, no Latino has ever been elected to Santa Clarita’s City Council.”

This is a result of “a lack of access,” according to the suit.

The California Voting Rights Act essentially expands upon the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, portions of which were recently deemed unconstitutional.

When reached for comment, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz referred KHTS to Montes.

Parris did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief barring the city from continuing its procedure of at-large elections.

Local school elections recently sought to change their election times in concerns over a similar lawsuit.

The Saugus Union School District voted 4-1 to move elections, a vote voided by the county's decision. 

Parris, a Palmdale native, joined a lawsuit on similar grounds against the city where he grew up, which has a high school that bears his name. 

However, a 2-2-1 vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently nixed the move, citing too great of an expense because the county was not equipped to handle so many elections at once.

The move would have meant less expensive elections and more voter participation, according to Tony Bell, representative for L.A. County Supervisor Michael D Antonovich, who supported the move.

The Santa Clarita City Council's next election will be held in April 2014. The elections take place every two years.

Mayor Bob Kellar, Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste, City Council members Marsha McLean, Frank Ferry and TimBen Boydston are all white.

The plaintiffs are registered voters and Latinos who are protected under the California Voting Rights Act, according to the legislation.

The states covered by the Supreme Court's recent decision on the Voter Rights Act of 1965, which is what the CVRA is based on, are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. 

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Santa Clarita Sued Over Civil Rights Discrimination Claim

Article: Santa Clarita Sued Over Civil Rights Discrimination Claim
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Perry Smith