Doug Johnson on City Council Districts

A recent San Gabriel Valley Tribune article on the subject of how West Covina’s city council is elected features some astute analysis from Doug Johnson. Johnson points out the risks to West Covina of maintaining their current at-large districts because of a recent court case:

Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Claremont-based Rose Institute, said districts promote a more neighborhood feel. But on the flip side, he added, it gives less of a vision for the city as a whole.

But Johnson predicts that more cities – including West Covina – could be affected by a recent court decision by a Madera County Superior Court Judge.

A judge ruled that the at-large election held by Madera Unified School District violated the Voting Rights Act.

The state’s Voting Rights Act, enacted in 2002, bans at-large voting if there is evidence that it impairs the ability of a minority group to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election. The school district is about 82 percent Latino.

While no one in West Covina is sighting race as a reason to redistrict, Johnson believes that it could eventually be a factor.

West Covina is a city of nearly 115,000 people. Nearly 50 percent of the population is Hispanic, 22 percent is Asian, and 23 percent is White. Currently, the only ethnic minority on the council is Hernandez.

“West Covina comes to mind as a city that needs to be concerned about this law,” Johnson said. “There are two reasons why: it has a significant Latino population, and it appears to have a political split between the Latino population and the rest of the city.”

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