BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó






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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                        AB 277|
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                                   THIRD READING 


          Bill No:  AB 277
          Author:   Roger Hernández (D)
          Amended:  4/7/15 in Assembly
          Vote:     21  

           SENATE ELECTIONS & C.A. COMMITTEE:  4-1, 6/16/15
           AYES:  Allen, Hancock, Hertzberg, Liu
           NOES:  Anderson

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  55-22, 5/4/15 - See last page for vote

           SUBJECT:   California Voting Rights Act of 2001


          SOURCE:    Author
          
          DIGEST:  This bill provides that the California Voting Rights  
          Act of 2001 (CVRA) applies to charter cities, charter counties,  
          and charter cities and counties.


          ANALYSIS: 


          Existing law:

            1)  Prohibits, pursuant to the CVRA, an at-large method of  
              election from being imposed or applied in a political  
              subdivision in a manner that impairs the ability of a  
              protected class of voters to elect a candidate of its choice  
              or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a  
              result of the dilution or the abridgement of the rights of  
              voters who are members of a protected class. 








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            2)  Defines "political subdivision," for the purposes of the  
              CVRA, as a geographic area of representation created for the  
              provision of government services, including, but not limited  
              to, a city, a school district, a community college district,  
              or other district organized pursuant to state law. 

            3)  Defines "protected class," for the purposes of the CVRA,  
              to mean a class of voters who are members of a race, color  
              or language minority group, as this class is referenced and  
              defined in the federal Voting Rights Act (52 U.S.C. Sec.  
              10301 et seq.) (VRA). 

            4)  Requires a court, upon finding that an at-large method of  
              election violates the CVRA, to implement appropriate  
              remedies, including the imposition of district-based  
              elections, which are tailored to remedy the violation. 

            5)  Permits any voter who is a member of a protected class and  
              who resides in a political subdivision where a violation of  
              the CVRA is alleged to file an action in the superior court  
              of the county in which the political subdivision is located.  


            6)  Permits a county or a city to provide for its own  
              governance through the adoption of a charter by a majority  
              vote of its electors voting on the question. 

            7)  Requires a county charter to provide for a governing body  
              of five or more members, elected by district, at-large, or  
              at-large with a requirement that members reside in a  
              district. 

            8)  Permits a city charter to provide for the conduct of city  
              elections.  Grants plenary authority, subject to limited  
              restrictions, for a city's charter to provide for the manner  
              in which, and the method by which municipal officers are  
              elected. 

            9)  Provides that a legally adopted city charter supersedes  
              all laws inconsistent with that charter with respect to  
              municipal affairs. 

            10) Permits a county and all cities within it to consolidate  







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              as a charter city and county. Provides that a charter city  
              and county is both a charter city and a charter county, and  
              provides that its charter city powers supersede conflicting  
              charter county powers. 

          This bill:

          1)Expressly provides that general law cities, general law  
            counties, charter cities, charter counties, and charter cities  
            and counties are "political subdivisions" that are subject to  
            the CVRA. 

          2)Makes the following findings and declarations: 


             a)   The dilution of votes of a protected class is a matter  
               of statewide concern. 


             b)   The provisions of the CVRA are reasonably related to the  
               issue of vote dilution and constitute a narrowly-drawn  
               remedy that does not unnecessarily interfere with municipal  
               governance. 


             c)   It is the intent of the Legislature that the CVRA shall  
               apply to charter cities, charter counties, and charter  
               cities and counties. 


             d)   It is further the intent of the Legislature in enacting  
               this bill to codify the holding in Jauregui v. City of  
               Palmdale (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 781. 

          Background


          California Voting Rights Act of 2001.  SB 976 (Polanco, Chapter  
          129, Statutes of 2002), enacted the CVRA to address racial block  
          voting in at-large elections for local office in California.  In  
          areas where racial block voting occurs, an at-large method of  
          election can dilute the voting rights of minority communities if  
          the majority typically votes to support candidates that differ  
          from the candidates who are preferred by minority communities.  







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          In such situations, breaking a jurisdiction up into districts  
          can result in districts in which a minority community can elect  
          the candidate of its choice or otherwise have the ability to  
          influence the outcome of an election.  Accordingly, the CVRA  
          prohibits an at-large method of election from being imposed or  
          applied in a political subdivision in a manner that impairs the  
          ability of a protected class of voters to elect the candidate of  
          its choice or to influence the outcome of an election, as a  
          result of the dilution or the abridgement of the rights of  
          voters who are members of the protected class.  

          At the time the CVRA was enacted, challenges to at-large  
          elections systems that diluted the voting strength of protected  
          classes of voters generally were brought under Section 2 of the  
          VRA.  In Thornburg v. Gingles (1986) 478 U.S. 30, the U.S.  
          Supreme Court announced three preconditions that a plaintiff  
          first must establish to prove that an election system diluted  
          the voting strength of a protected minority group, in violation  
          of Section 2 of the VRA:
           
           The minority community was sufficiently concentrated  
            geographically that it was possible to create a district in  
            which the minority could elect its own candidate; 

           The minority community was politically cohesive, in that  
            minority voters usually supported minority candidates; and, 

           There was racially polarized voting among the majority  
            community, which usually (but not necessarily always), voted  
            for majority candidates rather than for minority candidates. 

          While plaintiffs must establish the three preconditions outlined  
          in Gingles in order to prevail in a challenge brought under  
          Section 2 of the VRA, the CVRA was designed so that plaintiffs  
          would not need to establish that a minority community was  
          geographically concentrated in order to prevail.  Instead, the  
          CVRA provides that the fact that members of a protected class  
          are not geographically compact or concentrated "may be a factor  
          in determining an appropriate remedy," but "may not preclude a  
          finding of racially polarized voting." 

          The first case brought under the CVRA was filed in 2004, and the  
          jurisdiction that was the target of that case - the City of  







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          Modesto - challenged the constitutionality of the law.   
          Ultimately, the City of Modesto appealed that case all the way  
          to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the city's appeal in  
          October 2007.  The legal uncertainty surrounding the CVRA may  
          have limited the impacts of that law in the first five years  
          after its passage.

          Since the case in Modesto was resolved, however, many local  
          jurisdictions have converted or are in the process of converting  
          from an at-large method of election to district-based elections  
          due to the CVRA.  In all, more than 140 local government bodies  
          have transitioned from at-large to district-based elections  
          since the enactment of the CVRA.  While some jurisdictions did  
          so in response to litigation or threats of litigation, other  
          jurisdictions proactively changed election methods because they  
          believed they could be susceptible to a legal challenge under  
          the CVRA, and they wished to avoid the potential expense of  
          litigation. 

          Charter City and Charter County Autonomy & the City of Palmdale.  
           As noted above, the California Constitution gives cities and  
          counties the ability to adopt charters, which give those  
          jurisdictions greater autonomy over local affairs.  The  
          Constitution provides that a county's charter may provide for  
          members of the governing board of the county (commonly known as  
          the board of supervisors) to be elected by district, at-large,  
          or at-large with a requirement that members reside in a  
          district.  Notwithstanding these options, all 58 California  
          counties currently elect members to the boards of supervisors by  
          district.  As a result, this bill is unlikely to have a  
          significant effect on the governance of counties, although it  
          could make a county subject to liability under the CVRA if a  
          charter county chose to move to an at-large method of election  
          for county supervisors in the future.

          The Constitution also gives a great deal of autonomy to charter  
          cities over the rules governing the election of municipal  
          officers, granting "plenary authority," subject to limited  
          restrictions, for a city charter to provide "the manner in  
          which, the method by which, the times at which, and the terms  
          for which the several municipal officers and employees?shall be  
          elected or appointed."  The Constitution further provides that  
          properly adopted city charters "shall supersede all laws  
          inconsistent" with the charter. Given the autonomy granted by  







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          the California Constitution to charter cities and charter  
          counties, questions have been raised concerning whether the CVRA  
          is applicable to those jurisdictions. 

          In July 2013, the Superior Court of the State of California for  
          the County of Los Angeles, Central District, found that the City  
          of Palmdale's at-large method for electing city council members  
          violated the CVRA (Jauregui v. City of Palmdale (2013) Case BC  
          483039).  In the case, in addition to denying that its elections  
          violated the CVRA, the City of Palmdale argued that the CVRA was  
          unconstitutional as applied to the city because it is a charter  
          city, and Article XI, Section 5(b) of the California  
          Constitution gives charter cities plenary authority to determine  
          the manner and method in which their voters elect municipal  
          officers. The court disagreed, finding that "state law  
          regulating a matter of statewide concern preempts a conflicting  
          local ordinance if the state law is narrowly tailored to limit  
          its incursion into local interest," and concluding that "[t]here  
          can be no question that the dilution of minority voting rights  
          is a matter of statewide concern." 

          The City of Palmdale appealed to the California Court of  
          Appeals, Second District, Division Five.  In its appeal,  
          Palmdale again argued that, as a charter city, it was not  
          subject to the provisions of the CVRA.  The appellate court  
          disagreed, finding that the CVRA addresses an issue of statewide  
          concern, is narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessary interference  
          in municipal governance, and is reasonably related to the  
          resolution of statewide concerns of the right to vote, equal  
          protection, and the integrity of elections (Jauregui v. City of  
          Palmdale (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 781).  Palmdale appealed to the  
          California Supreme Court, and in August of last year, the  
          Supreme Court denied Palmdale's request to hear the case.  By  
          explicitly providing that charter cities, charter counties, and  
          charter cities and counties are subject to the provisions of the  
          CVRA, this bill would codify the appellate court's ruling in  
          Jauregui v. City of Palmdale.



          Comments


          1)According to the author, Assembly Bill 277 ensures that voters  







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            in charter cities are granted their fundamental rights and  
            protections as guaranteed under Section 7 of Article I and  
            Section 2 of Article II of the California Constitution. 

          There are 121 charter cities in California.  Charter cities have  
            authority over "municipal affairs," (California Constitution,  
            Article 11, Section 5) which supersedes state law in some  
            areas, known as "municipal affairs."  This generally includes  
            the conduct of municipal elections.  However, when a matter is  
            deemed to be of statewide concern, then state law may be  
            applicable. 

          The recent case of Jauregui v. Palmdale determined that  
            integrity in the municipal electoral process is a matter of  
            statewide concern, therefore, state law that addresses an  
            issue such as racially polarized voting applies regardless of  
            charter status.  AB 277 would codify that decision and clarify  
            all residents of California have the same fundamental rights  
            and protections.
          


          FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
          Com.:NoLocal:    No


          SUPPORT:   (Verified6/16/15)


           Advancement Project 
           California Immigrant Policy Center
           Californians for Electoral Reform
           Dolores Huerta Foundation


          OPPOSITION:   (Verified6/16/15)


          None received

          ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  55-22, 5/4/15
          AYES:  Alejo, Baker, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brown, Burke,  
            Calderon, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Cooley, Cooper, Dababneh, Daly,  
            Dodd, Eggman, Frazier, Cristina Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto,  







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            Gipson, Gomez, Gonzalez, Gordon, Gray, Hadley, Roger  
            Hernández, Holden, Irwin, Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Lopez,  
            Low, McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Nazarian, O'Donnell, Perea,  
            Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas, Santiago,  
            Steinorth, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Weber, Williams, Wood,  
            Atkins
          NOES:  Achadjian, Travis Allen, Bigelow, Brough, Chang, Chávez,  
            Beth Gaines, Gallagher, Grove, Harper, Jones, Kim, Lackey,  
            Maienschein, Mathis, Mayes, Melendez, Obernolte, Patterson,  
            Wagner, Waldron, Wilk
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Campos, Dahle, Olsen

          Prepared by:Darren Chesin / E. & C.A. / (916) 651-4106
          6/17/15 10:21:54


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