Friday, January 31, 2014

Voting Rights Lawsuit Aims At Changing Whittier Voting System

A pre-trial in a voter rights lawsuit filed by Latino residents against the city of Whittier was heard this morning in downtown LA.

The motions hearing alleges discrimination against Latino voters of the east LA County city and violations to the California Voting Rights Act.

KPFK Reporter Shawn Raymundo has more on the ongoing lawsuit.

The voting rights lawsuit between three Whittier Latino Coalition members and the city of Whittier continued with a motions hearing.

Whittier residents Lisa Lopez, Miguel Garcia and Jafet Diego, filed the lawsuit in early August based on allegations that the city is violating the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

Louis Reyes, spokesperson for the Coalition, says the plaintiffs want the city to change its at-large voting system to a voter-district method. He says the coalition members also want to expand the Whittier city council to five members and move all April elections beginning in 2016 to November when there is a larger turnout of voters.

After the lawsuit was filed in August, the City Council approved a separate special election for April so residents could vote whether or not to change the at-large election system to a voter-district system.

Reyes says the at-large system in Whittier violates state law, which dictates that local governments with racially-polarized voting patterns are required to establish voting districts. He says that in the last 100 years, there has only been one Latino elected to city council.

Reyes says getting Latinos to vote in elections has not been an issue but that voter participation should be a government priority.

According to Whittier demographics figures, Whittier has 85,363 residents and the Hispanic community represents nearly 69 percent of the population.

Whittier City Council member Fernando Dutra says the lawsuit is unfortunate for tax payers whose dollars will go toward the case despite the council already approving the special election in April.

In Los Angles, I’m Shawn Raymundo, Pacifica Radio, KPFK.