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City of Whittier Hit with Voting Rights Violation Lawsuit by Latino Activists

By Randy Economy

The City of Whittier has been hit with a voting rights lawsuit by a group of Latino community activists who feel that minority voters have been discriminated against when it comes to electing city council members.

Three members of the Whittier Latino Coalition filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, against the city of Whittier for violating the California Voter Rights Act by using discriminatory “At-Large” voting systems to elect members of the Whittier City Council.

Several local jurisdictions have faced similar lawsuits or the threat of legal actions over the past several months and years including Cerritos College and Bellflower Unified School District.

Attorneys Rod Pacheco and Felix Woo of Denton’s Law Firm filed the complaint on behalf of Whittier residents Jafet Diego, Miguel Garcia, and Lisa Lopez in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Hews Media Group – Community News obtained a copy of the 20-plus page law suit on Tuesday morning.

In the suit, Pacheco and Woo state that “at-large voting systems in the United States have been historically used to disenfranchise the voting rights act of Americans on account of their race or ethnicity in the Deep South.”

The suit also claims that in the 115 year history of Whittier only one Latino has ever been elected to the city council. Pacheco and Woo charge that they will show that “racially polarizing voting” can be documented, thus strengthens their legal challenge.

Whittier Latino Coalition chairperson Angie Medina said in a prepared statement to the media that, “For 115 years, the city of Whittier has used at-large elections that has disenfranchise Latino voters. We believe the city has recently hired a law firm only to delay addressing our complaint. Therefore, we are moving forward by filing a lawsuit to allow the legal system to remedy this injustice.”

The suit also looks to shift Whittier’s at-large voting system as well as the practice of holding city elections on even numbered years in April instead of consolidating them with general elections.

The complaint also states that “these practices create racially polarized voting that dilutes the vote of Latinos.”

Whittier’s population of 86,177 is 65.7% Latino.

Below is a copy of the lawsuit.

Complaint whittier voter_rights_violation

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