Don Schmitz

The political pendulum swings in our country from left to right, and sometimes very wide. The big swings, some would say over reactions, are in response to inexcusable injustices that have occurred in our country’s history. The good news is that as a society we tend to bring things back more to the middle, but those swings can be painful, and Malibu is about to feel that pain. 

In October, Malibu received a letter from the law firm representing “Southwest Voter Registration Project,” putting the city on notice that it is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Their opinion is something to note, because no city has ever won a CVRA lawsuit. When the batting record is 100, that speaks volumes on how the law is written. 

Readers may be familiar with the Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) of 1965 and amended in 1982, but many are less familiar with the CVRA of 2001. The FVRA was a bona fide step to address abuses in states, whereupon gerrymandering of district lines was done with malice of forethought to diminish the effectiveness of the minority vote.

The CVRA expanded out the FVRA, no longer attacking gerrymandering abuses, but addressing the diluting of the minority votes in an “at-large” election. The CVRA eliminated the precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1986, which created the framework to establish if minorities were being disenfranchised by at-large elections. Under the FVRA, a plaintiff had to demonstrate that a district boundary was drawn with the intent of racial disenfranchisement. Not so under the CVRA. The bar is much, much lower. In fact, it is basically lying on the ground.

If a city doesn’t have a history of minority candidates on its council, that is substantiation of dilution. Worse, how people within a community vote on such things as state ballots can be “proof” of dilution. 

As articulated in the attorney’s letter, the citizens in Malibu voted in favor of several state ballots that Latino voters in the state predominantly voted against. That is all the “proof” needed that the majority of voters are out of step with the Latino voters in Malibu and, therefore, steps must be taken under the CVRA to create districts that will give a greater voice to the Latino vote.

Remember the pendulum, and the wild swings of the same? We’ve devolved from good faith efforts to address horrible historical wrongs, to mandating carving up a city into voting blocks to effectuate an outcome—based upon race. Let that roll around in your brain for a while; it’s no longer about preventing manipulations of boundaries to prevent the vile disenfranchisement of certain ethnic groups, it is about manipulating boundaries to dilute the voice of the majority within a city when there is absolutely no evidence of any racist policies or manipulation. Based upon race.

In our zeal to address the tragic injustices of the past, we made our bed, and now we get to sleep in it. In fact, many Americans with gusto still pursue today the race baiting politics dividing our country. It isn’t about equal opportunity anymore; it is about equal outcomes, the lines on the color bar. The dream of Dr. King that we would judge based upon the content of our character, versus the color of our skin, has been abandoned by so many.

What if our Latino community members were more conservative (e.g., like the Cuban immigrant voters in Florida) than the traditionally progressive majority of Malibu voters? Would the CVRA require the same actions? Shockingly, yes, and that is the point. It isn’t about an ethnic group’s politics; it is about the color of their skin. Period, full stop. Tell me again how that is Constitutional? It is the broken mirror reflection of past political racism, simply reversed.

California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled CVRA Constitutional in Sanchez v. City of Modesto in 2006, stating that it wasn’t racist in nature. Incredible. Some community could take the plunge and litigate this to a higher federal court, but the California legislature built in fines and attorney fees that often total millions of dollars if they don’t capitulate. I don’t see that happening. Big cities typically have districts already, and smaller cities can’t afford the hit. Recalled Governor Gray Davis and the ACLU gave us quite a legacy. Ironically, even if the city’s demographer can’t find a clustered Latino neighborhood in Malibu to create a district for them to enhance their vote, Malibu will get districts, nonetheless. Logic is abandoned, and the Balkanization of America continues apace. The American motto is “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one). We must recommit ourselves as a nation to that ideal.  Carving political boundaries based upon race is antithetical to that principal. 

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