As expected, the City of Cypress is being sued for its refusal to switch to district-based elections. Attorney Kevin Shenkman filed the complaint last week on behalf of the Southwest Voter Registration Project and two Cypress residents.
The plaintiffs argue that the current at-large system violates the California Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising voters of color.As City News reported previously, Cypress City Council voted 4-1 to reject Shenkman’s demands that the city abandon its at-large voting system. The only city council member who voted not to reject the demand was Councilwoman Frances Marquez. She was later censured for allegedly disclosing closed-session information and failing to comply with Public Records Act requests.
“The Asian American citizens of Cypress whose voting rights are immediately harmed by the City of Cypress’ adherence to an unlawful at-large system of electing its city council are hindered from protecting their own interests,” according to the complaint filed by Shenkman.
In response, Cypress City Attorney Fred Galante wrote the following to Shenkman:
“In 1998 and again (in) 2002, Lydia Sondhi was elected to the City Council. Also, in 2006 and again 2010, Dr. Prakash Narain was elected to the City Council. Certainly, these undeniable trends of Asian Americans succeeding in the City’s at-large elections confirm that Cypress is not the appropriate target for your cookie cutter letters.”
Over the past ten years, more than 88 cities have dropped their at-large voting systems over legal threats involving the CVRA. Cypress, as well as the City of Brea, decided to buck that trend this year by refusing to cooperate. It’s a major gamble that could end up costing taxpayers.