Civil rights group hires Caltech expert
Continuing to press its claim that Arcadia elections discriminate against Asian-American voters, the Chinese American Equalization Association, a civil rights group also known as HQH, has added a Caltech voting rights expert to its team.
Caltech’s Morgan Kousser, a Professor of History and Social Science served on Pasadena’s redistricting task force in 2001 and 2011, and has testified as an expert witness in over 35 federal or state voting rights cases.
“We’re going to look into it carefully,” Caltech expert Kruckeberg said. “We know it’s an important issue and we want to understand it fully.”
City officials have hired an expert as well. He is Douglas Johnson, of Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute. Johnson has consulted several California communities including Pasadena and Duarte in redistricting cases.
HQH officials say Arcadia’s at-large voting scheme in citywide elections discriminates against Chinese Americans and violates the California Voting Rights Act. Richard McDonald, a Pasadena attorney representing HQH, has asked the city to consider implementing voting districts to resolve any representation disparities.
Arcadia is the second city in the San Gabriel Valley to receive such a demand letter in the past few months. In August, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) demanded that Monrovia replace its at-large electoral system with districts to protect Hispanic voters.
HQH President Ted Tian said he recently met with Arcadia Mayor Tom Beck and City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto. McDonald termed the meeting a good first step in the process.
Assistant City Manager Jason Kruckeberg said that it could take some time for a satisfactory resolution.
Experts on both sides are currently conducting investigations and collecting voting data. If they find evidence of voter polarization, the city might consider switching to a district-based electoral system via city ordinance or a ballot initiative, McDonald said.
Historically, California cities have implemented voting by district when confronted with claims of discrimination. All plaintiffs must do to prove a voting rights violation is demonstrate evidence of a minority voting differently from the rest of a city’s population. If this voter polarization is shown to be responsible for minority candidates consistently losing, the city must switch to a district-based system.
McDonald also said HQH and the Caltech expert are examining other communities in the San Gabriel Valley region for evidence of voter polarization. Tian said that he’s waiting for data to come in from Monrovia, meaning that city could face a demand from two minority rights organizations at the same time.
— By Hugo Guzman, correspondent