County supervisors approved moving Santa Clarita City Council elections, days before one of the men who prompted the change is scheduled to speak.
Los Angeles County officials signed off Tuesday on the first term of a lawsuit brought forth by Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez Fraser, who sued the city of Santa Clarita claiming a California Voting Rights Act, or CVRA violation.
The lawsuit, which was brought forth by attorney Kevin Shenkman of Shenkman & Hughes, claims racially polarized voting has denied Hispanic voters the opportunity to select their candidate of choice.
The city then questioned its own settlement terms in a series of filings, but a judge ultimately deemed them legally valid.
Shenkman represented Soliz and Sanchez Fraser in three separate lawsuits, against the city of Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita Community College District and the Sulphur Springs School District.
All three agencies agreed to settle, and no CVRA lawsuit has ever been successfully defended.
On Thursday, Shenkman is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Alliance for Action on how local elections are changing, and how cumulative voting and moving local elections for the city and school districts, as well, can change electoral strategy.
As a result of the suit, the city is moving its elections to November of even-numbered years to match up with the presidential election and employing cumulative voting, which the city approved in March 2014.
“I think probably what I would focus on is how to strategize in a cumulative voting election that coincides with a statewide general,” Shenkman said, “the importance of organizing behind a single candidate, recognizing how many candidates it’s likely you can select with your group, and focusing your support behind that number of candidates.”
If there are three seats up on the ballot in a cumulative vote, then one person can vote for a candidate up to three times.
So the vote becomes more effective if a group can “coalesce behind one candidate and make sure you get some representation,” he said.
Moving the date of the election should also change targeting strategy for candidates, he said.
In an off-cycle election, for example, such as the old system when city residents would cast their ballots in April, a candidate can start with a high-propensity voter list and target the message to who identify with the candidate’s message.
It’s much more effective when only 12-15 percent of eligible voters come vote, he added.
“In a statewide general election, you’re going to get a turnout of 70 percent or more,” Shenkman said, “so you can’t do that — you have to worry about mass appeal.”
Doors open for the meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Vicenzo’s Pizza at 24504 1⁄2 Lyons Ave. in Newhall.