After a voting rights group threatened litigation against Palm Springs, alleging that the city is violating the California Voting Rights Act by conducting at-large elections, city officials will hold a public meeting Thursday to discuss a possible switch to district-based elections.
The city received a letter last month from an attorney representing the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, alleging Palm Springs’ practice of at-large elections “has diminished the ability of Latino residents to impact elections and has resulted in racially polarized voting.”
The city issued a statement saying that the nonprofit’s assertions do not come with any demographic analysis to back those claims.
Similar notices were sent to Cathedral City and Indio in recent years, prompting both municipalities to switch to district-based elections. The Palm Springs Unified School Board and College of the Desert Board of Trustees also recently made the switch to district 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 to conduct a 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.
The 6 p.m. meeting is free and open to the public and will be held in the council chamber at City Hall, 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Those who cannot attend may watch the meeting live on Palm Sprigs Community Television Channel 17 or online at www.palmspringsca.gov .