Costa Mesa and Garden Grove Avoid Court by Catching Voting District Fever

A week after the Garden Grove City Council approved a new voting district map to stave off a lawsuit from Latino and Vietnamese community organizations, Costa Mesa officials announced Monday it will pay $55,000 to help resolve a claim that the city’s current election system dilutes the voting power of Latino residents.

As part of a settlement unanimously approved by the City Council last week, Costa Mesa will also seek voter approval in November to change to a district-based system for electing council members. Instead of at-large voting, which was used to elect the five current council members, the city would be divided into districts under the measure.

The $55,000 the city is doling out covers attorneys’ costs for those who made the claim: Costa Mesa resident Eloisa Rangel and the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which seeks to “empower Latinos and other minorities by increasing their participation in the American democratic
process,” according to its website.

They had threatened to sue on grounds that at-large voting violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by reducing the power of the city’s Latino residents to “elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Costa Mesa’s council elections.” Costa Mesa is 36 percent Latino but no Latinos have served on the City Council, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Rickk Montoya, an East Garden Grove resident and unsuccessful City Council candidate who had sued his own city on the same California Voting Rights Act grounds, congratulated the council last week for its unanimous vote last Tuesday to implement by-district elections starting in November, when four council members will be elected from within the new districts and the mayor will be selected at-large.

“This historic vote will allow residents to select council members who are from their communities and allow neighborhoods to receive direct representation,” Montoya said. “This is a victory for disenfranchised neighborhoods on the east end, who will now for the first time be able to elect a representative of their choice.”

The new district map, officially known as “Public Submission 1” was drawn by 25-year-old Kim Nguyen, an Eastern Garden Grove resident and alumnus of Santiago High School. 

Changing demographics and—coming soon—political power in traditionally white strongholds like Costa Mesa and Garden Grove reflect what’s happening up and down California.

Indeed, financial website recently pulled together data to identify “the average Californian:”

Jennifer is 35 years old, Latino, overweight and a Democrat
She has a credit card debt of $5,376 (which would take 10.5 years to pay off if only the minimum payment is made each month). She uses it most during sales, and her most common unplanned purchase is eating out.
Jennifer has $11,760 of student debt.
Jennifer works 41.3 hours a week in retail, to earn $1,012 per week, or $52,651 annually. This is nearly $5,000 more than the national average of $47,669.

Here’s the boffo graphic that was released with the report:

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