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The anachronistic politics of at-large voting

Practical Politics

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 12/19/2013, midnight

Be that as it may, the real problem here is that there is no Black American representation on the LACCB. There have certainly been Black candidates for election, including recently Nicole Chase and Joyce Burrell Garcia. There was even a recent Black incumbent who ran (she had been appointed to the seat to replace a retiree). All lost.

The elections for the LACCB are at-large. Since the governor’s signature on AB 684, in October 2011, they have also been illegal.

This new law provides community college boards an easy transition from at-large to geographic district voting. In fact, AB 684 says: “Current law establishes the California Voting Rights Act of 2001) which provides that an at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters who are members of a protected class, as defined. The act also establishes criteria in state law through which the validity of at-large election systems can be challenged in court.”

In essence then, AB 684 has modified the process by which governing boards of California community college districts may change from at-large trustee elections to election by geographical trustee areas. For these new trustee areas, the territory of a district will be divided into these neighborhood or geographical territories, and one member of the governing board would be elected from each trustee area. Candidates for election to boards must reside in, and be registered to vote in, the trustee area he or she seeks to represent on the board. Each affected governing board is authorized to set the initial boundaries of the trustee area in order to reflect the population identified and counted in the most recent decennial federal census.

Additionally, however, this bill does not apply to any community college district that is authorized by statute to provide for its own trustee elections.

The LACCB should change its status from at-large to trustee districts. It has already been asked to do that. That seems virtually the only way any Black representation will make it through election. Thus far, however, in spite of other districts complying with AB 684, the LACCB has demurred.

Its argument is that, for all intents and purposes, it does not have to do so, and therefore it will not. The LACCB says it is protected by statutory language. However, that remains to be seen, and whether it is true or not, it is still a violation of the California Voting Rights Act, passed in 2001.

Thus far, Cerritos College, Desert College, Yosemite, and West Valley have already complied with AB 684 and changed from at-large to geographical district areas; Cerritos after a suit was filed. Glendale and Santa Barbara have opted for feasibility studies on the process, seeking to find out whether any Latino or Black candidates have been disproportionally impacted.

Without a move to district locations, LASC will continue to be the last college served, and the first to suffer cutbacks. There is no one currently on the LACCB who is looking out for the interests of Black students. In this day and age, that simply should not be allowed to stand.

This article is to inform the citizens and the community to get themselves informed and girded for battle. The LACCB annually educates fully half of all of the African American students in Southern California who go to college. That is surely a community of interest with which to reckon.