COMPTON, Calif.–Three Compton residents filed a civil rights suit against the city, saying the at-large election system discriminates against Latinos even though they make up the majority of residents in the community.
Felicitas Gonzalez, Karmen Grimaldi and Flora Ruiz brought their case Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the city’s election system violates the state’s Voting Rights Act of 2001.
That law expanded on the federal voting rights act by granting standing to groups that are too geographically dispersed to elect their candidate of choice from a single-member district.
Also named in the lawsuit was City Clerk Alita Goodwin. The suit asks for a court order ending at-large elections in the city and replacing them with district-based votes.
City Attorney Craig J. Cornwell could not be immediately reached for comment as City Hall is closed today.
According to the complaint, more than 63,400 of Compton’s 93,955 residents, or 67.6 percent, are Latino. But from 1999 to the present, no Latino has been elected to the City Council and no member of the ethnic group has ever won the office of city clerk, the suit states.
The suit states that elections within the city are “characterized by racially polarized voting” that works against the interests of Latinos.
“Such polarized voting is legally significant in Compton’s City Council elections because it dilutes the opportunity of Latino voters to elect candidates of their choice,” according to the suit.
Although multiple Latinos ran for election in Compton in 2001, 2005 and 2009, none were elected, the complaint states.