Mayor Karen Farrer has called a closed-session City Council meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 7. The special meeting, set to convene at 4 p.m., has only one item on its agenda: a closed-door meeting with the city attorney to discuss the threat of a lawsuit over alleged violation of voting rights—specifically a “letter dated Oct. 25, 2019, from Milton Grimes regarding threat of litigation under California Voting Rights Act of 2001.”
As previously reported in The Malibu Times, that letter, officially received by the city clerk’s office on Oct. 28, alleged the city’s election system violated the California Voting Rights Act, due to Malibu’s at-large voting.
“I write on behalf of our client, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and its members residing in the city of Malibu,” Grimes wrote. “The City of Malibu ... relies upon an at-large election system for electing candidates to its City Council. Moreover, voting within the City of Malibu is racially polarized, resulting in minority vote dilution, and, therefore, the city’s at-large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.”
Grimes cited the fact no Latino resident has ever won a seat on Malibu City Council; in fact, none has run for city council election in Malibu. According to Grimes’ letter, that is due to Malibu’s at-large elections—where all council members are drawn from the general electorate and all voters select among the general pool of candidates—as creating a roadblock for Latino residents to gain representation.
Instead, Grimes requested the city switch to district-based elections, where each Malibu neighborhood would vote in one council member representing their neighborhood, not choose among candidates from across the city in one general election.
Should any action be taken during the closed session discussion on Jan. 7, it will be announced by the city attorney immediately following the decision that afternoon.