CAUSE, Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, has notified the city of Ventura this week that its election system stands in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.
“The City of Ventura is a textbook example of a community with racially polarized voting that keeps candidates from underrepresented communities from being elected citywide,” wrote CAUSE in a statement released on Tuesday, Sept. 5. “Although Latinos make up one in three residents and one in four eligible voters in Ventura, no Latino has ever been elected to the city council in recent memory. The current council remains 100% white, with no councilmember living west of downtown.”
The California Voting Rights Act states that cities with an at-large election rather than by neighborhood for councilmembers can be found in violation of voting rights if they exhibit racially polarizing outcomes.
CAUSE points to the 2016 election, wherein Latina candidate Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios received the highest share of votes on the city’s Westside, but was not elected by voters citywide, with Matt Lavere ranking as the top vote-getter. In 2013, African American candidate Lorrie Brown was the top vote-getter in Ventura’s Westside, but similarly was not elected citywide, as Erik Nasarenko received the highest number of votes throughout the rest of the city. Brown lived on the city’s east side at that time, however.
“It’s time for Ventura’s Westside to finally have the fair representation it deserves,” said Lucia Marquez, Ventura Organizer for CAUSE. “Additionally, with representatives being elected at the neighborhood level, city councilmembers will spend more time directly listening to community members and less time raising money from special interests.”
The city has 45 days to address the issue or be served with a lawsuit.