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For District Elections

August 14, 1988

A federal court has ruled that citywide elections are discriminatory based on the 1982 Voting Rights Act. The decision was made on the experience of the city of Watsonville in Northern California. Similar decisions have been handed down in other cities in Texas and New Mexico.

Coincidentally, the city of San Diego is in court for denying Hispanics the opportunity to hold office. The San Diego city attorney says the Watsonville decision doesn't count . . . San Diego is different. Just because a Hispanic has never held office in San Diego without being handpicked is irrelevant as far as the city attorney is concerned.

Denying people the opportunity to vote is not the way it's supposed to work in America. Putting obstacles in the way of people to have a voice in government went out with slavery.

It's hard to believe that city leaders, public or private, would deliberately attempt to discourage people from voting. But the city gets larger and voter participation gets smaller. People vote for local representation of their districts and they get denied. They lose to high-financed campaigns using trick slogans and media hype citywide. Who benefits when people are discouraged from voting?

Citywide elections were put in place in 1931 to serve the voting needs of 150,000 people. It still only serves 150,000 people even though the city population has grown to over a million. It serves wealthy special interests.

It's about time the system be opened up to make room for all of us.

It's a sad day in a city's history when 60,000 people have to sign a petition for the right to be fairly represented by city government. It's sadder still that the government has to be taken to court for denying 15% of the population the right to representation.



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