Palm Springs will consider shifting to district-based elections, in response to a threat of legal action by a voting rights group, city officials confirmed Thursday.
The city received a letter earlier this month from an attorney representing the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, alleging Palm Springs is violating the California Voting Rights Act by conducting at-large elections.
The letter alleges that the city’s practice of at-large elections “has diminished the ability of Latino residents to impact elections and has resulted in racially polarized voting,” and references the city’s “large Latino population and historic lack of Latino representation on the City Council.”
The city issued a statement saying that the nonprofit’s assertions do not come with any demographic analysis to back those claims, but city officials will obtain such an analysis and discuss the results at a public meeting on April 19.
Similar notices were sent to Cathedral City and Indio in recent years, prompting both municipalities to switch to district-based elections.
The city’s statement says the city council has met with both City Attorney Edward Kotkin and outside legal counsel, as well as a demography expert, who will conduct the demographic analysis.
“We intend to fully understand every legal and financial decision that is before us, and provide that information to our residents,” the statement reads. “We remain committed to diversity and inclusion, and will proceed in a manner that is consistent with the law and our values.”
The city’s statement says municipalities that choose to fight litigious threats of this sort often lose and cites the Northern Los Angeles County city of Palmdale, which lost a court battle over the matter and was forced to make the switch, as well as pay millions of dollars in legal fees.
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