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City Council and Southwest Voter Registration Education Project work together to ensure minority residents’ voting rights

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Today, the Orange County Superior Court granted approval of a jointly submitted motion intended to further the mutual effort to make cumulative voting a reality in Mission Viejo. The unique demographic and geographic characteristics as identified by both the Plaintiff’s and the City’s demographers make district-based voting a poor choice remedy to empower minority voters and to cure the unintended violation of the California Voting Rights Act identified in 2018.      

Cumulative voting is used when a city has a large number of minority voters, but they are scattered so evenly through the community that it is impossible to draw a district that gives those voters a “minority-majority.”

“This is a proud day … as we are one step closer to being the first California city to institute cumulative voting for the benefit of all Mission Viejo voters,” said Mayor Brian Goodell. “We are grateful the Orange County Superior Court agreed that district-based voting doesn’t give minority voters an adequate voice in our community. Since day one of this legal action, it’s been our duty to ensure everyone’s voice can be heard.” 

Mayor Goodell’s comments represent the sincere dedication of the City Council to honor all voters in this City and not take the easy way out. Honoring the “spirit” of the California Voting Rights Act (adopted in 2001) is more challenging than merely following the letter of the law by adopting districts from which a Council Member is elected.  Both the Plaintiff and the City hired demographers who independently determined that a minority-majority district cannot be crafted here. This means that no district would effectively grant minority voters the chance to have their votes elect a preferred candidate. Rather than only satisfying the letter of the law, the parties sought the most effective voting process that would benefit minority residents by providing a fair opportunity to elect their representatives.  Cumulative, or perhaps limited voting, has been successfully implemented in other parts of the country and was determined to provide the best chance to give minority voters a voice and a chance to succeed.

The City Council has strongly supported the effort to bring this “new to California” voting protocol into reality. While it is instituted in other states, ours would be the first time it is used in California.

“As we all know, new procedures take time to advance into reality, but if we persevere, we can accomplish great things,” Mayor Goodell said.     

The pursuit of cumulative voting impacts the existing form of at-large citywide voting that is currently the law in Mission Viejo. Through the cooperation of all parties, the City will – pursuant to judicial approval gained on July 16, 2020 – host one final “at-large” vote. This should be for a two-year term for two City Council Members as set forth in the Amended Stipulated Judgement offered and agreed to by both parties.

The community has also asked how to interpret the existing election law of the City. This was discussed at the City Council Meeting of July 14, 2020, and the summary of that overview is available by video recording here and by transcript here.

The foregoing is intended to address the facts about the current voting ordinances and the carefully tailored remedy we all seek to empower minority voters in the City.     

Seeking a full and equal vote for every voter not based on race or other criteria is the City Council’s goal. The Council seeks to give a full equal vote to ensure the course this City takes is the greatest it can be for every person.

“Everyone’s vote counts, and we want all constituents to have an opportunity to achieve their goals and participate in our vibrant community through their vote, and that’s the reason we are pursuing this course of action,” Mayor Goodell said.

Comments

Submitted by margo on Fri, 07/17/2020 - 3:34 pm

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I won't pretend to understand all the ins and outs of the city's politics. But it seems to me that the current incumbents are mostly motivated to retain their positions by not permitting district voting as three of them live in the same district. There are several other issues with which I'm concerned and with which I believe the city council has been less than transparent. And I wonder why our city's attorney is a one-person law office and not a well established law firm. Again, I'm not privy to all the insider information but from what I do know, I have concerns.

Submitted by Ivana Bullum on Sat, 07/18/2020 - 12:14 am

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Thank you Margo. It seems like these actions take away an individuals voting rights as opposed to strengthening them.

Submitted by Jim on Sat, 07/18/2020 - 8:21 am

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The approval of a cumulative voting plan is a welcome move. It will open up the opportunities for a more just representation of the views of everyone in the city.

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