SANTA MONICA — A petition for rehearing by the Pico Neighborhood Association in a voting discrimination and dilution lawsuit in a California Appeal’s court was rejected on Wednesday, August 5.
The panel of three judges wrote, “There is no change in judgement. The petition for rehearing is denied.”
Although there is no change in the judgement of voter discrimination and dilution of Hispanic voters via Santa Monica’s at-large voting system, the judges did make an altercation to the opinion rejecting the claims.
The first paragraph on page 32 was deleted and replaced with:
“First, Pico argued the Act contains no dilution element at all. In its 95-page brief, Pico devoted only one sentence to this argument. An amicus brief also argued this point. At oral argument, however, Pico ‘for purposes of this argument’ abandoned this argument, and for good reason.”
The rejection of the petition for a rehearing will become official tomorrow, August 8. From there the plaintiffs will have ten days to request a hearing in California’s Supreme Court.
Kevin Shenkman, the attorney representing the Pico Neighborhood Association and activist Maria Loya in the lawsuit announced he intends on taking the voter discrimination case to the California Supreme Court “on or about August 18.”
The lawsuit alleges that Santa Monica’s at-large voting system dilutes the Hispanic vote in Santa Monica and argues that a district based voting system in Santa Monica would strengthen the Hispanic vote. An at-large voting system allows for all residents of Santa Monica to vote for all seven City Council seats. A district-based voting system would require Santa Monica to be divided into seven wards, where each ward elects a representative on the City Council.
The court wrote in their opinion, “Assuming race-based voting, 30 percent is not enough to win a majority and to elect someone to the City Council, even in a district system.”
Shenkman has responded to this argument, citing that there is no law requiring a majority population to create a minority district. He also pointed out that in 2004 Loya would have won a council seat if a district based voting system was implemented.
A trial court originally ruled in favor of the Pico Neighborhood Association and ordered the city of Santa Monica to create a district based voting system. The 2nd District Court of Appeal overturned this decision, and has now upheld its decision after a petition for rehearing.