Are minorities being disenfranchised by our non-district voting system? That’s the question being asked in Laguna City Hall after a recent thread of legal action was received last week by the City Council. At issue is the current Laguna Niguel ‘at-large’ election system where the entire city votes for all seats on the dias vs a district system where residents would have a single council member responsible for just their district.

According to the letter from Attorney Michelle R. Jackson, “a review of Laguna Niguel’s voting results appears to illustrate that they are racially polarized,, resulting in minority vote dilution. Therefore, Laguna Niguel’s at-large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act of 20011 (“CVRA”).

During the last twenty (20) years, not a single Latino has been elected to the Laguna Niguel City Council. There also has not been a single Latino candidate in the past 20 years, despite Latinos currently comprising 17% of the population of Laguna Niguel, which is the second largest race and ethnicity population in the city”.

Jackson added, “it is requested that Laguna Niguel change the manner in which it elects councilmembers to its city council and adopt a district system. Please be advised that if we do not have some movement with regard to this issue by July 27, 2023, we will be forced to seek judicial relief on behalf of residents within the jurisdiction.”

The city council discussed the potential litigation in a closed meeting before the city council meeting on June 6̶. No word if the city intends to cave to the demands. Elections have recently been on residents minds as the city council has been forced to replace two recently vacated seats by Sandy Rains and Rischi Sharma after a series of unusually tense events over the past year.

The request isn’t without precedent. In 2018 Dana Point transitioned to a district voting system. As reported by the Dana Point Times, The change to by-district elections was required to ensure that the city did not violate the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) which prohibits the use of an at-large election in a political subdivision if it would impair the ability of a protected class, as defined, to elect candidates of its choice or otherwise influence the outcome of an election.

No word on the challenges the city would face in a district voting scenario, but it’s possible that current council members would be forced to vie over a single seat should the district system be implemented. Jackson’s letter to the Laguna Niguel city council can be read below.