The city of Palmdale has reached an agreement this week with the plaintiffs in the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) case, and will hold a series of community meetings in the future to explain the upcoming changes to its method of electing its city council.
The city will also pursue action to encourage the state legislature to fix the CVRA which Palmdale officials have said that, in its current form, leaves cities, counties and school districts susceptible to frivolous lawsuits.
Under the agreement, a new system will begin with the November 2016 election where Palmdale will be divided into four districts, using a map drafted by the plaintiffs and approved by the trial court. There will be one council member per district and residents will no longer be able to vote for the entire city council, but rather will vote only for the council member seeking to represent their district. The election of the mayor will continue to be a city-wide, at large vote. The trial court also ordered the city of Palmdale to hold its elections in November of even-numbered years to coincide with either the presidential or gubernatorial election cycles. All current council members will remain in office until the next council is sworn in following the election in November 2016. The city will also request that the Los Angeles County Registrar consolidate Palmdale’s election with the general election.
The settlement also calls for the results of the November 2013 city of Palmdale election to be certified. In that election, Fred Thompson became the first African American to win a seat on the Palmdale City Council.
“Contrary to the allegations of the lawsuit, Fred Thompson was successfully elected in an at-large election in 2013,” said Palmdale City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. In that election, Thompson appeared to have met the goals of a lawsuit filed against the city of Palmdale—namely achieving greater minority representation on the city council—as plaintiffs sought and obtained an injunction preventing him from being seated as a council member. The at-large election proceeded and Thompson joined the council.
“I’m in office in spite of, not because of, the lawsuit,” Thompson said. “My story demonstrates that the lawsuit was both unnecessary and disingenuous. I’ve won at-large elections in this valley for more than 20 years and other qualified minority candidates have done the same.”