City Council in Race-Torn Anaheim Rejects Switch to Voting Districts

Friday, August 10, 2012
Protest at Anaheim City Hall (photo: Stuart Palley, Associated Press)

The city of Anaheim, staggering through intense racial animosity after two recent fatal police shootings, resisted calls to create a district voting system that would almost certainly result in more diversity on its 5-member council.

On a 3-2 vote, council members rejected the proposal and elected, instead, to create a citizens advisory panel on elections. The city’s mayor and its largest employer, Disney Resort, supported the district measure but did not prevail. Anaheim is the largest city in the state with at-large voting and it was an issue before the shootings.  

The city has been rocked by protests and confrontations for the past three weeks after back-to-back fatal shootings of Latinos by police in a four-day period. Anaheim police, who have killed five people this year, claim that increased gang crime has contributed to an uptick in violent police encounters. Department officers killed two people last year and none the year before.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California sued the city in June, claiming it violated the California Voting Rights Act. Although 53% of the city’s 336,000 residents are Latino, only three Latinos have ever been elected to the city council. Currently, the mayor is not Latino and neither are any of the other four city council members.

The ACLU claims that disparity is a direct result of at-large voting. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop at-large elections after the November 2012 election. Demographic studies of Anaheim show a deeply segregated city. Latinos dominate the city’s core, living in barrios and dense neighborhoods of primarily rental properties. Poverty rates exceed 25% there.

Nearby is Anaheim Hills, 58% white with a median income of more that $100,000. Another chunk of territory is dominated by Disneyland and resorts. It has a 51% Latino population with a strong presence of Asians and blacks.  

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Anaheim City Council Rejects Voting Districts Proposal (by Rick Rojas and Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times)

Council Districts Could Alter Power Dynamic in Anaheim (by Nicole Santa Cruz, Doug Smith and Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times)

Latinos Shut out of Anaheim Electoral Process (American Civil Liberties Union)

Moreno v. Anaheim (Superior Court of California County of Orange)

Disney Backs District Voting in Anaheim, Cites City's ‘Diversity’ (by David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times)

Leave a comment