The opinion offers further clarity for cities on the legal standards used to assess CVRA claims, as requested by the League in its friend-of-the-court brief
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that the at-large system diluted the voting power of Latinos. The trial judge agreed, based in part on evidence that Latinos could obtain 30 percent voting power in one district under a proposed by-district election system, as opposed to 14 percent voting power city-wide under the at-large elections system. The trial judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and ordered the city to switch from at-large to by-district elections.
The city appealed, arguing that the trial court misapplied the legal standards for determining whether at-large elections dilute voting power for purposes of the CVRA. The Court of Appeal agreed with the city, and reversed the trial court’s ruling. The Court of Appeal held that: “Dilution requires a showing, not of a merely marginal percentage increase in a proposed district, but evidence the change is likely to make a difference in what counts in a democracy: electoral results.”
Applying this standard, the Court of Appeal concluded that the plaintiffs failed to make a sufficient showing of vote dilution. The Court noted that “30 percent is not enough to win a majority and to elect someone to the city council, even in a district system.” Therefore, there was “no dilution because the result with one voting system is the same as the result with the other: no representation.”
Cities who have questions about any potential impact of the Court's ruling on their city should consult with their city attorney.