La Mirada~The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) recently sent a letter to the Mayor of La Mirada and the other city council members, accusing the city of violating the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
MALDEF has placed demands on the city to convert to a by-district election system as compared to the at-large method to allow Latino residents to elect candidates to city council.
Latinos make up 36% of La Mirada’s eligible voter population, according to US Census Data.
After receiving complaints from a group of residents this year, MALDEF organized an investigation with the press release stating, “there are currently no Latino members on the five-seat council, and with one exception, there have been no Latinos on the city council since La Mirada’s incorporation in 1960.”
However, at present, Mayor Steve De Ruse is of Mexican descent, rebutting MALDEF’s claim.
After reviewing election returns and demographic information for La Mirada MALDEF claims the lack of success of Latino voters in La Mirada to elect candidates is due to racially polarized voting among the electorate, therefore violating the CVRA, the statement read.
Matthew Barragan, MALDEF Staff Attorney, said in a statement, “MALDEF
stands with La Mirada’s Latino voters in their pursuit of a place in
local government. These residents simply want a voice in who gets to
have a say in important aspects of civic life.”
La Mirada City Manager Jeff Boynton acknowledged there are neighboring communities who have changed their process recently, “This is a process of something new for us and we have to see what it means for La Mirada. We have a lot to learn in the next couple of months and decisions will have to be made with benefits and drawbacks for whatever course of action is taken.”
MALDEF and their clients will pursue a judicial order to change the election system should the City of La Mirada fail to respond by August 17th or if they give an unsatisfactory response.
Boynton said a closed session will take place to discuss the matter with the city attorney at the duration of the next council meeting Tuesday, August 9th.
UPDATE: 07:32 08/6/16: We contacted MALDEF attorney, Matthew Barragan and asked him about the apparent miscalculation by the group of Latino representation on the La Mirada City Council, "If there were more than one [Latino] prior to that, it wouldn't change the result of our demand letter. And you know, us still believing the city's violation was based on a large investigation that had to do with more than just how many Latino members were on the council, he said.