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City of Santa Clarita settles Voting Rights Act lawsuit


By OW Staff

At the special meeting of the Santa Clarita City Council on April 12, a settlement agreement was approved with the plaintiffs who filed suit against the city in December 2021, claiming a violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

The city will institute district-based elections for the City Council seats, starting with the 2024 City Council election. The November 2022 election will not be affected. As part of the settlement agreement, the city will pay a total of $370,000 to the plaintiffs, Michael Cruz, Sebastian Cazares and the group Neighborhood Elections Now.

Although the five districts boundaries will be determined before the 2024 election, the city has always operated staggered elections, so only two seats will be up in November 2024. Regular elections will continue to be consolidated with statewide general elections in November of even-numbered years to fill expired City Council terms. Council members serve staggered four-year terms, therefore the remaining three district seats will be up for election starting in November 2026.

“This was a tough settlement to agree to,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste. “Our city has thrived under the current at-large election process, through which residents are able to vote for all of the council members who represent them in this city. This new process means voters will only get to vote for one councilmember. This one council member will represent just one area of the city.”

The settlement also gives the city the ability to work with the community on the process to establish districts, rather than have a court dictate the districts.

The next steps will be working on a map that will break the City up into council districts. The city will conduct several public hearings starting after the 2022 election to develop a final district map. The city will work with the Santa Clarita community in a transparent and collaborative process to develop the district map.