Palmdale November election blocked by judge


Superior Court Judge Mark Mooney issued the injunction on Monday, barring the Antelope Valley community from holding an election that relies on citywide balloting rather than voting by individual districts. His ruling said the election could only proceed if the system is changed to a district-based system or some other method is found to rectify problems.

With the election just five weeks away, the city has already sent absentee ballots, which wouldn't be counted if the injunction stands. In a statement released Monday, Palmdale said it would seek an emergency appeal.

Back in August, Mooney ruled that Palmdale's current balloting system violates California's Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of Latinos and blacks, who make up about 69 percent of the population in a city of 154,000. Only one Latino and not a single African-American has ever been elected to the council.

The Voting Rights Act has been used to sue several cities since it was adopted in 2002. One was Modesto, which switched to district voting as a result.

Still, Palmdale has resisted, with officials saying that a majority of California cities use an at-large method of electing councilmembers similar to Palmdale's.

Despite the ruling, the city "just simply ignored it and pressed on with holding one more such illegal election," said Kevin Shenkman, one of the attorneys for a resident who sued over the election system.

Another attorney for the plaintiff also praised the injunction.

"For far too long already, the African-American and Latino citizens of Palmdale have been disenfranchised. No longer should they be forced to wait for their rights while the city thumbs its nose at the law," said R. Rex Parris, who also is mayor of neighboring Lancaster.

On the other hand, City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy urged those with absentee ballots to vote and mail them in, calling the ruling unprecedented and radical. Ditzhazy also noted that the injunction would actually be counterproductive because it would block an election where three of four candidates for two council seats are minorities.

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