The Burbank City Council has voted to fight a lawsuit challenging its at-large election system – a move that could prove costly for taxpayers. The decision comes one year after resident Nicholas Gutierrez sent a letter to the city threatening legal action over the current system, which he says disenfranchises Latino voters and violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The Burbank Unified School District (BUSD) has already adopted district elections to comply with CVRA. Burbank, however, has been moving slowly. The city began discussing the change last year and even settled on a district map. Then, last Tuesday, an item was added to the closed session agenda to discuss the matter further.
After closed session, City Attorney Joe McDougall gave the following statement:
“The City Council gave unanimous direction to defend the City against the CVRA lawsuit while the City continues to evaluate the composition of the City Council through the Charter Review Committee.”
In 2016, the City of Palmdale fought a lawsuit challenging at-large voting. The city was ultimately forced to settle, adopting district-based elections anyway and agreeing to pay $4.5 million in plaintiffs’ legal fees. Since then, most cities facing CVRA threats have agreed to comply. But a handful of cities have recently decided to fight back, including the Orange County cities of Cypress and Brea.
Read more about the Burbank City Council’s decision here.