Calif. Appeals Court affirms ruling against at-large election system

The California Court of Appeals, Sixth District, on Dec. 30 affirmed the decision by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Kuhnle, ruling that the City of Santa Clara’s at-large election system diluted the vote of Asian Americans and thus violated the California Voting Rights Act.

The CVRA was enacted by the California Legislature in 2002 to make it easier to eliminate racially discriminatory at-large election systems.

The Superior Court’s order in 2018, which was affirmed Dec. 30, required the City of Santa Clara to conduct its City Council elections from six single-member districts rather than at-large, as the City had done since its charter was adopted 70 years ago.

In all those years, Santa Clara had never elected an Asian American to the city council, but in the 2018 and 2020 elections using districts, three of the six candidates elected to the Council were Asian American.
Plaintiffs LaDonna Yumori-Kaku, Wesley Mukoyama, Herminio Hernando, Umar Kamal and Mike Kaku are represented by the Law Office of Robert Rubin in Mill Valley, Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho of Oakland and the Asian Law Alliance of Santa Clara County.

Robert Rubin, who initiated the case when he warned the city in a letter as far back as 2011 that its at-large system violated the CVRA, and participated in representation of the Asian American plaintiffs throughout the litigation, stated, “the election of Raj Chahal

in 2018, Kevin Park, Suds Jain, and Anthony Becker in 2020, under the trial court’s remedial maps, dramatically illustrates how the elimination of at-large elections can bring down structural barriers to the election of qualified minority-preferred candidates.

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