The former mayor of Poway, California is turning the tables on voting rights activists who have forced changes to election systems across the state. Don Higginson believes the law their arguments are based on, the California Voting Rights Act, is unconstitutional and now he’s suing Poway in an effort to reverse the trend toward district-based elections in California.
Numerous jurisdictions have abandoned at-large voting in recent years to avoid lawsuits from groups who say the system dilutes minority votes. Poway is just the latest to do so; other cities in San Diego County include Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, and Vista.
KPBS explains the crux of Higginson’s argument:
The state law has a lower standard than the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires plaintiffs to also show there are enough minority voters in a city to form a majority in one of the proposed districts. If there are not enough minority voters or they are spread out in a city, the federal law does not require district voting.
Higgonson argues the state law is unconstitutional because it forces “race-based sorting of voters” without the guarantee cities could even create a district that would give a greater voice to minorities. He has asked a federal judge to stop the state from enforcing the law and overturn Poway’s recently approved district map.
California’s by-district voting crusade, led by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman, has been an unstoppable force in California politics so far. Will the former Poway mayor be able to pierce its armor? We’ll be watching.