News & Publications

Redistricting & Voting Rights Update: Cases

CVRA Petition for Certiorari Scheduled for May 21 Supreme Court Conference: Former Poway Mayor Don Higginson’s petition for certiorari, seeking to have the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in on the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act, is scheduled for initial consideration by the Court at its conference on May 21, 2020. It takes the votes of four justices to grant a petition.

Former Poway Mayor Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Address Constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act: On April 6, 2020, Don Higginson, the former long-time mayor of Poway, filed a petition for certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, asking that Court to hear his case challenging the constitutionality of the California Voting Rights Act. Higginson claims that the CVRA violates equal protection by making race the “predominant” consideration in whether to have districts or at-large voting; that it must therefore survive strict scrutiny; and that it cannot do so. A federal district court in San Diego rejected the challenge in early 2019, and a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that ruling, in an unpublished opinion last December.

City of Martinez Defeats Challenge to Districts: On February 28, 2020, the Superior Court in the County of Contra Costa rejected a suit challenging the council district plan that the City adopted in 2018, as part of its transition from at-large voting to district-based voting in response to a threat of litigation under the California Voting Rights Act.

The map was adopted in February 2018; the plaintiffs waited until four days prior to the November 2018 election to file suit, alleging that the Council improperly balanced the policy considerations that have traditionally governed redistricting in California, including treatment of communities of interest, consideration of avoiding head-to-head contests between incumbents, compactness, and others. The Council had adopted a plan that sought to give each district shared responsibility for the City’s waterfront, downtown, and other shared municipal resources.