Lady Justice oversees son who murdered his father. Photo via Shutterstock
Lady Justice oversees son who murdered his father. Photo via Shutterstock

A majority of West Covina’s population is Latino, but there’s no Latino on the City Council.

So three West Covina residents are suing their city to replace at-large elections with district-based contests, saying the current system is unfair to the Latino majority population in the San Gabriel Valley community and violates the law.

Armando Sanchez, Juan Reinoso and Alfred Williams filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. Sanchez and Reinoso are Latino and Williams is black.

A representative for the city could not be immediately reached for comment.

The suit filed Wednesday states that the 2010 U.S. census showed that 52.3 percent of West Covina’s 106,100 residents were Latino and that slightly under half of the registered voters are of that ethnic group. However, no Latino currently serves on the City Council and only two have been elected in the city’s history, the suit states.

Latinos who were the preferred candidates among voters of that ethnicity sought election to the council in 2013 and 2015, but were defeated by the non- Latino voting bloc in the at-large system that violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, according to the plaintiffs.

“This current absence, and historic paucity, of Latinos on the West Covina City Council constitutes … a lack of access for the Latino population to the political process in the city,” according to the complaint.

In 2009, a residents’ group gathered enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would change the city to a district-based voting system, but it was defeated in “what amounted to an at-large election in which non- minority voting strength defeated a minority-supported initiative,” the suit says.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote the city in 2011 to express their clients’ concerns about at-large elections, but the correspondence was met with “an unfavorable and misguided response refusing to acknowledge any problem…,” according to the lawsuit.

Seven years after the first effort at change began, the city “remains content to continue violating the CVRA and their minority constituents’ voting rights,” the suit alleges.

The West Covina City Council is comprised of four council members and a mayor chosen by the majority. Terms of service are for four years and elections are held in odd-numbered years.

–City News Service 

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