Monrovia considers MALDEF response

Monrovia considers MALDEF response

The city of Monrovia has asked for more time to consider a Latino civil rights organization’s demand that the city implement a district-based election system.

An Aug. 19 letter addressed to the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) said the Monrovia City Council wanted to further review allegations that the voting process is polarized. Members of the City Council need more time to discuss the demand.

“Sometimes jurisdictions act more quickly,” Staff Attorney Matthew Barragan said. “But we have seen certain cities ask for more time so the public can comment or so they can deliberate.”

Barragan said MALDEF and city officials are continuing their discussions.

Monrovia City Manager Oliver Chi reiterated the city’s dedication to taking a measured, careful approach.

“We certainly do take the demand letter issued by MALDEF seriously,” Chi said in an Aug. 11 press release. “Especially given that Monrovia has had such a rich history of electing individuals that represent a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives to serve on the City Council.”

Racial Polarization?

Research done by Eric Lindgren, the University of Oregon’s Carroll Professor of Urban Politics, was used in a lawsuit that led Whittier to implement a district-based election system.

Because Monrovia already has a diverse city council, there is no need for the city to create council districts, Chi said.

But Lindgren argues that the existence of a diverse city council doesn’t prove anything. To defend itself, the city would have to show that Latino voters are not excluded from the political process.

Cities like Monrovia, with an at-large election system, face an uphill battle to prove their elections aren’t polarized, Lindgren said, noting that a court battle over the issue could be costly.

“The most efficient, cost-effective and politically advantageous way for cities to handle these types of legal challenges is to voluntarily switch to district-based elections,” Lindgren said.

Barragan echoed these sentiments.

“MALDEF and the Latino community members hope that the city decides to voluntarily convert to district-based elections,” he said.

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