Lawyer accuses Paso Robles of racial bias in voting

September 24, 2018

Faced with the threat of a lawsuit over the alleged suppression of Latino voting rights, the city of Paso Robles is considering shifting from an at-large electoral system to one consisting of voting districts. The Paso Robles City Council may adopt a resolution on Tuesday declaring its intention to make the change. [Cal Coast Times]

Last month, attorney Kevin Shenkman, of Shenkman & Hughes, authored a letter to the city of Paso Robles, alleging its at-large system violates the California Voting Rights Act. The letter alleges Paso Robles has racially polarized voting, which dilutes the city’s Latino vote. Racially polarized voting is a voting pattern in which different racial groups support opposing candidates.

Shenkman states in the letter that Latinos comprise 34.5 percent of the city of Paso Robles, but no Latino has run for city council in the last 20 years. The lawyer also accuses the Paso Robles council of failing to condemn racist speech that has occurred during public comment.

The letter threatens a lawsuit if the city does not create a by-district electoral system.

Under the California Voting Rights Act, individuals are allowed to sue agencies and demand a change in the electoral system if racially polarized voting exists in the jurisdiction. The state Voting Rights Act also entitles the plaintiff to collect compensation for legal fees when such lawsuits succeed.

A Paso Robles city staff report states the Voting Rights Act establishes a fairly low threshold, and numerous agencies in California have faced challenges over their at-large election systems. None of the agencies have succeeded in court, according to the staff report.

Because of the low probability of success in court and the potential result of being required to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, many agencies have opted to voluntarily adopt by-district electoral systems.

City staff does not believe Latino racially-polarized voting has occurred in Paso Robles. But, staff is still recommending switching to a district voting system because of the low likelihood of the city prevailing in court.

Under state law, Shenkman is entitled to recover legal fees of up to $30,000, even if the city voluntarily makes the change to a by-district system.

Additionally, the city must adopt a resolution on the change in electoral system within 45 days, hold at least four public hearings on the matter and convert to a by-district election system at a specific accelerated time. The city would have 180 days to develop voting districts.

It is estimated to cost $30,000 to have a consultant conduct initial demographic analysis and prepare district maps. City staffers would also have to work on the change in electoral system.

Staff is recommending that the council adopt the resolution declaring the planned change in voting system at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Correction Mr. horse_soldier, Ca arrived at crazyville some years back.

Should anyone question why so many people have lost all faith in their government? This whole thing just stinks – cities get threatened with lawsuit based on zero evidence and then roll over and accept it cause they are afraid of the outcome. This is how we want our children and grandchildren to see as the way things get done??

How do you think he can afford to live in Malibu????

Meet the Malibu lawyer who is upending California’s political system, one town at a time,

Utter nonsense. 

California is on the fast track to crazyville. 

And this will change what? Of the 34.5% Latino head count how many can or do vote? I agree that we need to protect our ability to make changes through our vote. One big change needs to be the cost of litigation, the archaic paper shuffle used is so outdated that it no longer serves the public. $30,000 of taxpayer money, just because, is the real crime.

Oh my! A Latino has not run in over 20 years? If they are legal and want to run just pull the papers and fill them out. If they comprise 34.5% of the population they should be a shoe in just based on racial attitudes. The City Council failed to condemn racial speech? Whatever happened to Freedom of Speech. It looks like we are now starting to see the emergence of a new breed of Ambulance chasing attorneys. They are now chasing the racial and sexual angles of the political environment that we are seeing. And of course like all government agencies they will just pay up saying it’s not only cheaper but then no one will really know what happen. Your tax dollars at work.

Your name sums it up succinctly.