The City of La Mirada has scheduled three Public Hearings to receive public testimony and gather input to consider modifying its elections from the current at-large system, where all voters elect all members of the City Council, to a by-district system, where only voters in a given district vote on the person to represent them.
The number of representatives on the City Council will remain at five.
The first Public Hearing was held on October 11, with the other two slated for October 25 and November 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers at La Mirada City Hall.
The City Council members made the decision they would elect by district rather than fight a lawsuit from the Latino voting rights group, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and face the possibility of having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The city received the letter from MALDEF that stated, “We have received complaints from Latino voters in the city of La Mirada that the use of an at-large election system for the election of city council members results in Latino voter dilution. We reviewed the demographic and electoral information pertaining to your jurisdiction, based on our investigation we believe that the city of La Mirada is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and must convert to a by-district election system.
La Mirada is comprised of 36% Latino who are voting age however none of the five current members of the city Council is Latino and, with one exception, there have been no Latino city council members since the City’s incorporation.
Based on that, MALDEF concluded 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.
The letter went on, “in the absence of a satisfactory response from the city MALDEF 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 together with other relief provided for in the CVRA including an award of litigation and witness costs and attorneys fees.
The council, on a 4-1 vote, approved a settlement with the MALDEF requiring districts for the March 2017 election, and paid $30,000 to MALDEF for its expenses.
Councilman Andrew Sarega cast the lone no vote against the settlement.
Sarega and Councilwoman Pauline Deal’s terms expire in March 2017.
PROPOSED MAPS ON CITY’S WEBSITE
The City has placed four proposed maps (labeled Map 1, Map 2, Map 3, and Map 4) on its website for residents to study and comment on the boundaries.
Hews Media Group-Community News, via a public records request, obtained the addresses of all current Councilmembers and pinpointed the addresses on the four proposed maps.
Only one map, Map 2, placed the current council in five separate districts the remaining three placed two councilmembers in the same district leaving one other district open.
Map 1 placed both Councilmembers Deal and Sarega in District 4, leaving District 1 open for a resident to run for a Council seat.
Map 3 placed Mayor De Ruse and Sarega in District 4, leaving District 2 open for a resident to run for a Council seat.
Map 4 placed Mayor De Ruse and Mowles in District 2, leaving District 1 open for a resident to run for a Council seat.
A proposed timeline calls for final adoption by Nov. 8.
Editor’s note: MALDEF made a mistake in the letter sent to the city. The current Mayor, Steve DeRuse is of Hispanic heritage. This article has been re-posted with permission by lamiradalamplighter.com. See original article to view maps. You can also view the maps on the city's website, where officials are encouraging resident participation before the final lines are drawn.