The College of the Canyons Board of Trustees will fight a lawsuit that claims its electoral system is discriminatory.
“The Board of Trustees announced that it has authorized its attorneys to defend the lawsuit,” said Bruce Battle, COC spokesman.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser, alleges that the college’s at-large voting, which allows local voters throughout the Santa Clarita Valley to choose board members, limits the access of Latino voters.
The lawsuit is one of three lawsuits that were filed and served in recent weeks against officials of the Santa Clarita Community College District, the Sulphur Springs School District and the city of Santa Clarita.
The Santa Clarita Community College District is the only community college district in the Santa Clarita Valley and governs a campus in Valencia and Canyon Country.
The Sulphur Springs School District is a kindergarten through sixth-grade district that is based in Canyon Country.
All of the Santa Clarita Valley’s school districts, which including COC’s governing board, hired Redistricting Partners, a firm that specializes in the field of political demographics, among other areas, to conduct studies, said current Hart district board President Joe Messina.
“We did our homework, and we spent six to eight months researching this,” Messina said. “All the districts, including COC, and the results showed that districting would actually make the problem worse.”
Several requests for the data have not yet been answered by any of the school districts.
School officials have said that the study was ordered by College of the Canyons officials; however, all of the districts helped pay for the study.
The data showed districting essentially would further divide the Hispanic population, according to Messina.
The school districts sought to increase valleywide voter turnout by moving the elections to even-numbered years, which coincide with national elections and generally produce more voters.
The county, citing inadequate equipment, voted 2-2 with one abstention on the matter, essentially leaving the elections unchanged.
“This suit should actually be against the county and not us, because we all voted to (move elections),” Messina said, “even though some of us don’t think this will work.”
The city and districts have 30 days to respond to the suit.
Multiple calls to the Sulphur Springs School District office seeking comment on the lawsuit were not returned.
The city responded to the lawsuit Wednesday, and has also elected to fight.
City officials hired two firms to represent them in court.