Over the last several years, cities, school districts, and community college districts throughout the State have been changing from at-large to by-district elections to comply with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) and/or to avoid litigation. The CVRA expands the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 by eliminating key requirements including geographical compactness of a minority group and the group’s ability to form a majority in a district.
By eliminating these important elements in the federal law, State law made it easier for plaintiffs to sue and prevail. Not a single jurisdiction has prevailed in litigation under the CVRA; several jurisdictions have paid millions in out-of-court settlements and all challenged jurisdictions have transitioned from at-large elections.
On October 31, 2017, the City of Lodi received a letter of complaint from the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) alleging that the City of Lodi is in violation of the CVRA and must convert to a by-district election. Based on this threat of litigation, the City Council transitioned from at-large to by-district elections to mitigate costs associated with potential legal challenges under the CVRA.