City Council to discuss by-district voting litigation

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

With a lawsuit now officially filed against the city in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Santa Clarita City Council is set to discuss litigation regarding at-large voting during a special closed session meeting on Tuesday.  

According to the meeting agenda, the five council members will have a conference with legal counsel regarding the case Michael Cruz et al. v City of Santa Clarita.  

The members will then return to open session following the closed-door meeting, and report publicly if any action was taken during the conference.  

The lawsuit, filed by Scott Rafferty on behalf of Michael Cruz, Sebastian Cazares and Neighborhood Elections Now, an organization run by Rafferty out of Walnut Creek, asks for injunctive relief on the basis of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.   

“Be electing its council at-large, the city of Santa Clarita dilutes the votes of Latino citizens, suppresses the ability of their communities to recruit and support candidates for public office, and prevents them from aggregating their votes to elect those candidates in single-member districts,” reads the lawsuit. “In recent elections, Latinos, Blacks and Asians have voted in coalition.”   

The litigants argue that to vote for a single representative from their neighborhood district would result in more representative candidates for local communities with large Latino and minority populations in future City Council elections — groups whose populations have grown since the city’s system was implemented decades ago and are protected by the CVRA.  

Councilman Bill Miranda, in a previous statement made to The Signal during his tenure as mayor for 2021, said his personal belief was that redrawing of lines along possible ethnic boundaries could open up new problems in terms of democratic equity. He also stated he believes the present system, where residents vote for all five council members as opposed to a single one representing their neighborhood’s district, gives each voter more autonomy.  

“We on the City Council represent every single resident and it doesn’t matter what color they are or what color you are,” said Councilwoman Marsha McClean in a previous meeting. “It doesn’t matter what religion you are, it doesn’t matter at all… We are representing everyone, all five of us represent everyone, and going to districts will dilute our community.”    

The special meeting for the Santa Clarita City Council is set to take place on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd. The regular public meeting is then scheduled to take place at 6 p.m.  

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