Rancho Cucamonga Seal

By Liset Márquez
@JournaLiset on Twitter
Posted: 02/18/16 – 11:39 AM PST |

RANCHO CUCAMONGA >> The threat of a lawsuit has prompted city officials to explore the idea of abandoning at-large voting and instead form council districts.

Rancho Cucamonga received a letter from a Santa Monica-based law firm Shenkman & Hughes in December, threatening to sue the city for violating the California Voting Rights Act, said City Attorney Jim Markman.

The City Council authorized a preliminary statistically report on the voting population, which was presented to the council Wednesday during closed session. At the start of Wednesday’s council meeting, Markman said the issue could come before the voters in the November election.

“It appears that we have a Latino voting population of about 30 to 33 percent, and since 2006 the only Latino to have run for office has not been elected,” Markman said. “There appears, on the face of that report, to indicate there’s some evidence of what’s called polarized voting.”

The California Voting Rights Act puts into question — in a community that has a certain percentage of minority voters — whether at-large deprives a minority of a meaningful opportunity to elect their chosen representatives.

In the past few years, similar lawsuits have been filed around the state, particularly in Southern California, most recently in Highland, Whittier, Fullerton and Anaheim, Markman said.

“Once these cases are filed, they expose cities to a significant amount of financial exposure,” he said.

The law firm sent a letter to Rancho Cucamonga, threatening a lawsuit based on data from the last census, Markman said.

Rancho Cucamonga is not alone; Markman said seven other cities also received that same letter in December, and more cities have been put on notice since then.

“We have this threat of litigation that we’ve been looking at for a couple of months now,” he said.

The council authorized a preliminary report to be generated by National Demographics Corp., considered the leading experts in helping cities deal with claims of California Voting Rights Act violations.

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