Superior Court Judge Rules Against Cumulative Voting In Santa Clarita City Lawsuit -- September 23, 2015

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled that cumulative voting cannot be used in the city of Santa Clarita 2016 election.

Judge Terry A. Green ruled in July 2014 that cumulative voting could be used by the city of Santa Clarita.

Plaintiffs Jim Soliz and Rosemaire Sanchez-Fraser sued the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Community College District and the Sulphur Springs School District in June 2013 for an alleged California Voting Rights Act violation.

The lawsuits claim Hispanic voters’ rights are being violated by at-large elections, which result in racially polarized voting and deny Hispanic voters the opportunity to select their candidate of choice.

But on Sept. 14, after receiving a letter from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Green ruled that while the current “voting ballot tabulation” technology, known as the OPTO-MARK system, could be programmed for the cumulative voting system, the “Elections Code does not define any cumulative voting ballot tabulation methods by which testing and certification criteria could be developed by my office,” according to a letter from Padilla.

Padilla added that “any voting system that has not been certified or tested for the purpose of which it is intended to be used requires testing and certification by my office. The OPTO-MARK system has not been tested for use in a cumulative voting election environment by the Secretary of State’s office.”

A request for comment from the plaintiff’s attorney, Kevin Shenkman, of Shenkman & Hughes, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

City of Santa Clarita’s City Attorney Joseph Montes of Burke, Williams & Sorensen said “the next step is (to) prepare orders” and those orders will then go to the plaintiffs.

“If they object to the language and we can’t work it out, we will likely have another hearing,” Montes said. “If they don’t object the order, then we submit it to the court and the judge signs it. How much longer this will take depends on whether or not they object and whether or not we have to have another hearing.”

It could take a week or a month for another hearing, depending on the judge’s schedule, Montes said.

Part of the city’s settlement included moving their elections to November, which will remain enforced.

The Sulphur Springs School District is moving to districts and the Santa Clarita Community College District will move to cumulative voting, move its election to November and adopt districts when a majority Hispanic district can be created, as well as other remedies.