By Aakanksha Patel and Joseph Shepard
OAKLAND, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta has filed a friend-of-the-court amicus brief in City of Santa Monica v. Pico Neighborhood Association to urge the California Supreme Court to affirm key protections included in the California Voting Rights Act.
The California Voting Rights Act, which was enacted in 2002, protects the voting rights of Californians by prohibiting the implementation of “at-large methods of election” that restrict the ability of protected groups to meaningfully participate in elections.
Although the CVRA only applies to elections for multi-member governing boards of political subdivisions, and not other types of elections, it is crucial for maintaining fair elections and promoting diversity in government, Bonta claimed.
The case that the Attorney General filed an amicus brief about focuses on the specifics of the CVRA’s standard for proving “vote dilution” has occurred. To establish vote dilution under the CVRA, there should be evidence that an at-large electoral system has made it impossible for a protected class to exercise the power it would have otherwise had to influence the election results.
“To truly be able to pursue a more perfect union, we must defend and protect the voting rights of all Californians,” said Attorney General Bonta. He added that the CVRA is essential to make people’s voices heard with fair and equal elections and to prevent unlawful vote dilution.
In the brief, Attorney General Bonta refuted the idea that a plaintiff has to “show that a district could be drawn that would have a majority of residents in the protected class” in order to prove that vote dilution has occurred.
Instead, he claims that plaintiffs must demonstrate that “an at-large voting system in particular has diluted the protected class’s electoral influence,” and that the establishment of vote dilution “should be based on the totality of the circumstances.”
Although the CVRA has been around for two decades, it has yet to be interpreted by the California Supreme Court. And Bonta emphasized that it is essential to retain the CVRA’s protections to uphold the voting rights of all Californians.