What is the California Voting Rights Act?

The California Voting Rights Act, signed into law in 2002, prohibits the use of any election system “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”  Jurisdictions can be sued if they elect their governing body using an at-large, from-districts, or mixed election system. If the court finds against a jurisdiction, the jurisdiction must change its election system and pay the plaintiff’s attorneys, experts, and other expenses.

California law requires potential plaintiffs to notify jurisdictions of plaintiff’s believe that the jurisdiction is in violation of CVRA and prevents the filing of a lawsuit for a 45-day ‘safe harbor’ period. During those 45 days the jurisdiction must begin the process of moving to by-district elections or risk a lawsuit.

If a jurisdiction begins the process of moving to by-district elections, it has another 90 day “safe harbor” to complete that process.

The 45 days decision time and the 90-day project time are very fast and present numerous challenges. But NDC’s experience with over 300 liability analysis and over 200 completed districting projects prove we can help your jurisdiction get the job done well and on time.

Jurisdictions that fought CVRA claims have paid settlement or judgement amounts ranging from $100,000 to $4.7 million. So far, no jurisdiction has successfully defended itself against a CVRA lawsuit.

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