About the California
Voting Rights Act
California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was signed into law on July 9,
2002. It targets jurisdictions that elect boards and councils
at-large (all voters in the jurisdiction elect all members of the
Board or Council). The CVRA is not relevant for those
jurisdictions that already elect by district. All other
California jurisdictions may be subject to challenge under the
Intent of the CVRA
The CVRA disallows the use of the at-large type of election if it
“impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of
its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an
election.” Its intent is to enable members of protected groups
(Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, other non-White
groups) to elect or to influence the election of representatives
of their choice by requiring the election of board and council
members by single-member election district (rather than at-large).
The CVRA and the
Federal Voting Rights Act
expands on the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier
for minority groups in California to prove that their votes are
being diluted in at-large elections. Unlike the Federal Voting
Rights Act, the CVRA does not require plaintiffs to demonstrate
that it is possible to create an election district or districts in
which a protected group is concentrated enough to establish a
majority of the voters. This makes it easier for plaintiffs to
sue local governments and eliminate at-large elections.
Effect of CVRA
Litigation on Local Governments
A major concern for potential defendants in CVRA litigation is
that the law requires the defendant (the jurisdiction) to pay the
plaintiff’s legal fees if the plaintiff’s lawsuit is successful.
The City of Modesto reportedly paid $3 million to attorneys for
the plaintiff who sued them. Tulare Regional Medical Center
paid $500,000, and Madera Unified School District paid $162,500
(reduced from an original claim for $1.8 million).
Assessments of Jurisdictions
To avoid the possibility of lawsuits and other complications,
some jurisdictions with substantial minority populations have
themselves initiated the move from at-large elections to election
by district. Other jurisdictions evaluate whether they can retain
There is no
statutory deadline for completion of California Voting Rights Act
evaluations include detailed analyses of:
Voting patterns in the jurisdiction
(both board/council elections and other races/ballot measures)
using the statistical methods accepted by the courts;
The history of membership of your
The demographic makeup of your
jurisdiction’s population and electorate.
LGDR Can Help You
Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographic
Research, Inc., provides two types of services to jurisdictions.
Demographically assess the voting
patterns and Board or Council elections to determine whether the
CVRA applies to a particular jurisdiction; and
Help jurisdictions move from
at-large elections to election by districts (see our
Political Redistricting Services page for a discussion of our districting services).
How much will this cost?
Costs depend upon the amount of assistance that the client
requires, including the number of elections that are analyzed for
evidence of racially polarized voting. Please contact us for
Gobalet (at) Demographers.com
Lapkoff (at) Demographers.com
Does LGDR provide
We do not
provide legal advice, although we are quite familiar with most
CVRA and redistricting requirements. We will work with your legal
counsel. We also can refer you to attorneys who specialize in the
CVRA and political redistricting.