Escondido Ready To Fight Voting Rights Suit
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Aired 12/15/11 on KPBS News.
Escondido appears to be headed to court over the question of whether the city’s Latino population has a fair chance to be represented on the council. The city risks being sued because it has not decided to change from city-wIde to district elections.
Escondido is not the first city to be sued for failing to comply with the State and Federal Voting Rights Acts. Modesto lost a $3 million legal battle when it fought to keep city-wide elections.
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed is adamantly against district elections.
“I would rather pay $3 million and not divide this community,” he said.
Cezar Diaz of the State’s Building and Construction Trades Council was one of those who appeared before the council last night to urge them to make the change. He said the Council is willing to pay for a lawsuit because it has many members living in Escondido who do not feel they are fairly represented. He said candidates without big campaign war chests have a better chance of winning in district elections.
“Our council has a mission," he said, “to promote our members’ participation in democratic institutions from school boards all the way up to the federal government level. Right now their participation is being hindered as a result of not having district elections.”
The Escondido city council did discuss the issue as a legal matter in closed session. The one Latina on the city council, Olga Diaz, is in favor of district elections, but she said the rest of the council members are unlikely to make the change without a fight.