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Santa Ana Suspends Vote Tactic

August 05, 2003|Jennifer Mena and David Haldane | Times Staff Writers

The Santa Ana City Council on Monday suspended an election procedure that allowed residents to vote on installing traffic barriers in their neighborhood.

The unanimous decision followed a judge's ruling last week that barred officials from counting the 342 mail-in votes after a lawsuit alleging that the balloting was unconstitutional.

"Our hope is to bring an end to the lawsuit," City Atty. Joseph Fletcher said.

Left unsaid was what would be done about the controversial barriers themselves, erected to prevent traffic from entering Santa Ana's French Park neighborhood after a similar vote three years ago.

"To keep those barriers up is an act of bad faith," resident Kim Gerda told the council. "To keep the barriers up would cause more turmoil."

The original plan was to monitor the effectiveness of the barriers, then take a second vote to determine whether they should remain. Last month, however, the American Civil Liberties Union sued city officials, alleging that the new election violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution by allowing each homeowner to have a vote, while permitting only one combined vote for multiple-family dwellings with more than four units. Those ballots often went to landlords or homeowners associations.

The lawsuit argued that the voting favored French Park -- a community of single-family homes on one side of the barriers -- over French Court, made up mostly of Latino apartment-dwellers on the other.

The city countered that the vote was advisory, thus legal.

Last week a federal judge sided with the ACLU.

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