Santa Clara sued over voting rights, citing discrimination against Asians

SANTA CLARA (BCN) — A retired social worker filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Clara Friday, citing that the city’s at-large election system has prevented Asian Americans from being elected to City Council despite a 38 percent Asian minority population in the city.

“Something is wrong when such a sizeable Asian-American population cannot elect candidates of its choice,” plaintiff Wes Mukoyama said in a statement.

According to U.S. Census data, Santa Clara’s population is about 45 percent white, 19 percent Hispanic and 3 percent black.

The suit seeks to allow for the implementation of a district election system and is filed pursuant to the California Voting Rights Act, which prohibits at-large systems in jurisdictions with racially polarized voting patterns.

“It’s been a long time coming,” civil rights attorney Robert Rubin said. Despite that about 38 percent of the city’s population and 30 percent of the city’s eligible voters are Asian-American, Santa Clara has not seen an Asian-American councilmember elected since the current city charter was adopted in 1951, according to the Asian Law Alliance.

None of the five Asian American candidates who ran for city council seats last year were elected. Some of them would have been elected under a district-based system as they were the preferred choice of Asian American voters, according to Rubin’s firm.

Since the California Voting Rights Act was ratified in 2002, not a single lawsuit challenging an at-large election system has failed, Rubin said.

Rubin has won previous lawsuits over the at-large election issue against Anaheim, Modesto, Bellflower, West Covina, Tulare as well as school districts in Rodeo and Newport Mesa.

Rubin also sued San Mateo County in 2013, which was the last county in California to utilize at-large elections, he said.”Each case comes on its own merits.

“Each case comes on its own merits. We certainly are pretty confident over the chances in Santa Clara,” Rubin said.

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