South Pasadena’s president of the Board of Education and the superintendent of the South Pasadena Unified School District are expected to sign a resolution initiating the process for local elections involving the school district to go from at-large to districting based on the actions of a Malibu attorney.
The South Pasadena Unified School District has received a demand letter from the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes alleging it is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
Unless it fights the allegation, which it likely will not, the school district will be required to pay $30,000 in attorney fees, the maximum allowable by statute, to the firm. The City of South Pasadena was faced with similar action when it was pushed by Shankman to establish districts for future elections.
Superintendent Geoff Yantz and Board of Education President Michele Kipke are asked to sign the resolution. The board meets Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. for a regularly scheduled meeting at district headquarters.
Shenkman alleges in legal action against cities that the current at-large election method disenfranchises Latino and African-American voters, denying them effective political participation. He believes his efforts, including some lawsuits reaching into the millions, will increase the number of Latino and African-American representatives on city councils and school boards.
“Be it further resolved that the Board directs the Superintendent or Superintendent’s designee to immediately initiate the legal and regulatory process, including the retention of counsel and demographic experts, to establish trustee areas within the District, as provided in Education Code section 5019, in sufficient time for trustee areas to be established for the November, 2022 election of members of the Board,” reads a portion of the resolution before the South Pasadena Board of Education.
Throughout California, Kevin Shenkman, 40, has been suing cities and school districts after sending out demand letters insisting they change the way they elect members of their city councils and school districts to increase African-American and Latino representation.
Further, the resolution points out, that the Board directs the superintendent “to immediately initiate the legal and regulatory process of changing the method of electing members of the Board, from the current at-large system whereby each member of the Board is elected by the registered voters of the entire District to a method which provides that Board members residing in each trustee will be elected by the registered voters of that particular trustee area in sufficient time for the new method of electing members of the Board to be in place for the November, 2022 election.”
Shenkman & Hughes, the latter Shenkman’s wife, is acting on behalf of its client, the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Project (SVREP), created to empower Latinos and other minorities by increasing their participation in the American democratic process.
South Pasadena Unified School District currently uses an at-large system of electing its governing board members.
The resolution further adds, “the Board is aware that under state law an at-large method of election may be deemed to impair the ability of some voters to elect candidates of their choice or to influence the outcome of elections and, therefore, may be subject to challenge under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.”
According to the resolution, the board intends to complete the process of changing to the district methodology, and hold its initial by-trustee area or district election of board members, starting with the November, 2022 board election.