Litigation Threat Changes Eastvale Elections

By Raymond Mendoza

Eastvale– Changes are in store for Eastvale for the upcoming November elections, as the Eastvale City Council recently voted to change its “at-large” system of city council elections to “by district” – meaning that council members must be elected from certain geographic areas within the city.

While the vote was 3-0 in favor of the change during the latest council meeting on April 27 (Councilmember Adam Rush was absent) the council members noted their decision was only made to appease litigation threats made by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

According to Attorney Betsy Martin, the City of Eastvale received a letter from the group in April stating that they would sue the city if Eastvale did not switch to “by district” elections in time for the November 2016 election. The group claimed that the City of Eastvale’s current election system is violating the California Voting Rights Act of 2002.

According to a statement issued by the city, Eastvale is not the only city being threatened with litigation. Inland Empire cities such as Rancho Cucamonga, Wildomar, Hesperia, Chino and Upland all received the same demands regarding by-district elections.

“We recommend that you do (change to “by district” elections),” said Martin. “No city has ever successful defended a voting rights challenge.”

Martin went on to discuss how the California Voting Rights Act of 2002 is intended to ensure that “protected groups” – such as minority races – have their voting rights protected. Martin mentioned that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund was alerted due to the efforts of an unknown Eastvale community member.

“Rather than spend a lot of money on fighting something that will certainly be a losing proposition, we suggest you go forward and draw your own districts as rapidly as possible,” said Martin.

During the June 2010 Eastvale incorporation election, 54 percent of the voters were in favor of “at-large” elections – which allowed anyone who lives within the city to run for city council. “By district” only received 27 percent of the votes.

Council Member Clint Lorimore voiced his distaste for the election changes, stating that breaking the city into districts would accomplish very little since there is no major racial divide from one area of Eastvale to the next.

“I want to express my frustration with this process,” Lorimore said. “I believe that we in Eastvale are a homogenous community. We’re not broken into specific areas where one ethnicity lives. It is not going to be helpful, in my opinion, for our city to do this.”

To push these changes ahead at an accelerated rate, city officials hired the National Demographics Corporation to study the city’s population and prepare draft plans for the proposed districts that also meet legal requirements. The draft of proposed districts will be available to the public this month on the city’s website and residents are also encouraged to voice their opinions concerning the new districts during its upcoming public hearings on May 11, May 25, and June 8.17