Compton Voting Rights Lawsuit Resolved

Joaquin Avila, Director of the National Voting Rights Advocacy Initiative at Seattle University School of Law, and Rosen, Bien & Galvan are representing the plaintiffs in a dispute with the City of Compton over the City’s election system.  The parties issued a joint press release announcing settlement of the case on February 28, 2012, which is set out below.

Compton Voting Rights Lawsuit Resolved

COMPTON, February 28, 2012 – The City of Compton, California and voters Felicitas González, Flora Ruiz and Enelida Alvarez announced today a resolution to a long-standing dispute over the City’s election system.

Plaintiffs González and Ruiz sued the City in December 2010, claiming that the City’s at-large method of elections violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 because it prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice in this city of almost 100,000. The City denies the plaintiffs’ allegation and maintains that its electoral system is equally open to all voters, but can be changed only by the voters. Trial had been set for May 7, 2012 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the settlement announced today, the City has agreed to provide two opportunities for Compton voters to decide whether to establish district-based election for City Council by placing charter amendments on the June 2012 ballot and, if the measure fails to pass in June, on the November 2012 ballot. The City will also provide voter education on the proposed charter amendments. If the charter amendments pass, the City agrees to draw electoral districts according to the 2010 Census. Plaintiffs will have an opportunity to review proposed electoral districts. The next City Council election is slated for April 2013.

City Attorney Craig Cornwell announced the settlement, stating that “Compton’s voters should have an opportunity to consider changing the City’s electoral system and the benefits that district-based elections offer to all City voters, including possibly increasing voter turnout.” City Attorney Cornwell also noted that the current electoral system is specified in the City Charter and can be changed only by the voters. Cornwell stated that “the settlement would end protracted litigation and allow the City to refocus resources in a more positive direction.” “We welcome the opportunity for all neighborhoods in Compton to have a stronger voice in City elections,” said Gay Grunfeld, attorney for the plaintiffs. “This settlement brings positive democratic change to the elections process.” The case is González et al. v. City of Compton, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC 450494.

The plaintiffs are represented by Joaquin Avila, Director of the National Voting Rights Advocacy Initiative at Seattle University School of Law, and by Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP of San Francisco. The City of Compton is represented by City Attorney Craig Cornwell and his deputy, Jose Paz, and by the Marin County office of Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP.

Contact:

Gay C. Grunfeld – (415) 260-5683 – ggrunfeld@rbg-law.com

Craig Cornwell – (310) 605-5582 – ccornwell@comptoncity.org

February 29th, 2012