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Lawsuit Seeks To Curb California Voting Rights Act, Local District Elections

Poway City Hall is pictured in this undated photo.

Credit: City of Poway

Above: Poway City Hall is pictured in this undated photo.

Lawsuit Seeks To Curb California Voting Rights Act, Local District Elections

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Dan Eaton, partner, Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek

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Poway Voting Rights Lawsuit

Poway Voting Rights Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by former Poway mayor Don Higginson, alleging the California Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

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Former Poway mayor Don Higginson is suing Poway and the state of California, seeking to stop Poway from electing its city council based on districts and he is arguing the California Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.

Poway is the latest in a wave of cities across San Diego that have moved toward district elections, opposed to at-large elections where the entire city votes on its elected representatives. Many cities, including Poway and Oceanside, made the change after receiving letters from attorney Kevin Shenkman, who represents a Latino voting rights group.

Shenkman told the cities their election systems likely violate the state voting rights act, which aims to protect minorities from having their votes diluted in an at-large system. If lawyers can prove minority voters tend to vote together and have different voting preferences than white voters or other majorities, the law calls for district voting.

RELATED: Like Dominos, North San Diego County Cities Are Moving To District Elections

The state law has a lower standard than the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires plaintiffs to also show there are enough minority voters in a city to form a majority in one of the proposed districts. If there are not enough minority voters or they are spread out in a city, the federal law does not require district voting.

Higgonson argues the state law is unconstitutional because it forces “race-based sorting of voters” without the guarantee cities could even create a district that would give a greater voice to minorities. He has asked a federal judge to stop the state from enforcing the law and overturn Poway’s recently approved district map.

Legal analyst Dan Eaton joins KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday to break down the case.

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