Yumori-Kaku v. City of Santa ClaraAnnotate this Case
Five Asian-American residents sued the City of Santa Clara (City) contending that at-large elections for the office of city council violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Elec. Code, 14025-14032). The trial court agreed that occurrences of racially polarized voting impaired the ability of Asian-American voters, as a result of vote dilution, to elect their preferred candidates to Santa Clara’s seven-member city council. It ordered the City to implement district-based city council elections and awarded attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs totaling more than $3 million.
The court of appeal affirmed. Racially polarized voting in five of 10 city council elections satisfied the standard for a cognizable voting rights claim, which required a showing that the majority voting bloc in Santa Clara’s electorate “usually” voted to defeat the candidate preferred by Asian-American voters. The trial court did not err in assigning more weight to certain elections and appropriately used statistical evidence to support its findings of racially polarized voting. The imposition of “race-based districts” did not violate the Equal Protection Clause nor did it impinge the City’s plenary authority as a charter city under the California Constitution to control the manner and method of electing its officers.