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Anaheim intends to fight council district lawsuit

August 29, 2012 |  6:24 pm

Anaheim City Council audience l
Anaheim intends to fight a civil rights lawsuit filed by community activists and the American Civil Liberties Union that alleges the city's voting system is unfair to Latino residents.

Anaheim is a majority Latino city, though it has had few Latino elected officials over the years.

In a response filed in Orange County Superior Court Wednesday, the city denied the lawsuit's claims, including an allegation that candidates preferred by Latinos could not be elected due to the current at-large system of voting. 

“Over the past 10 years, numerous candidates for Anaheim City Council, who were preferred by Latino voters in the City, were elected to the council,” the city's response said.

In recent weeks, Anaheim has been roiled by tensions stemming from the two fatal police shootings of Latino men, which exposed a divided city. A Times analysis found that the city was segregated along ethnic lines.

City officials came under growing pressure to place a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to decide switching to a system in which council members are elected by district, but the council voted it down.

Instead, a commission was created to study elections in time for the 2014 season.

Bardis Vakili, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization is willing to discuss settling the suit, but has not heard anything from the city.

“There’s a lot of wounds in Anaheim that need healing,” he said. “For us, the sooner, the better.”

City officials were not immediately available for comment.


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Anaheim residents crowd council meeting in the days after street protests turned violent. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times.