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Coachella water board plans to discuss changing election system

October 22, 2013|By Jean Merl

On the heels of a letter accusing it of violating the California Voting Rights Act, the board of the Coachella Valley Water District on Tuesday took a tentative step toward changing its election system, a spokeswoman said.

Advised  by its attorney that changes to the way it elects its directors may require voter approval, the board discussed the possibility of putting a measure before voters in the June 2014 California primary, according to district spokeswoman Heather Engle.

The board will take up the possible election matter at its Nov. 12 meeting, Engel said.

On Monday, attorneys sent a letter to the district accusing it of violating the state law that seeks to ensure that minorities have an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice. The letter warned the district to switch from electing its board members at large to choosing them by geographic district or "other lawful system" or be sued.

The sprawling district has a large number of Latino residents but none of its board members re Latino.

Activists throughout California have been pushing for an end to at-large elections in cities, school districts and other elected governmental bodies. They are targeting jurisdictions with significant minority populations but little or no minority representation and where precinct analyses reveal patterns of racially polarized voting.

Some community college districts and school boards have changed from at-large to by-district elections to avoid costly lawsuits; but others have resisted, particularly cities. Whittier, which has been sued, decided to ask voters whether they want to switch to by-district elections. A judge recently found Palmdale in violation of the state law and is considering how the city, which plans to appeal, should correct the situation. 


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Twitter: @jeanmerl

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