The opinion of the court was delivered by: BREWSTER
This case involves a challenge by Hispanic plaintiffs to the at-large election system of the El Centro Elementary School District Board of Trustees ("El Centro") under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 1973. Hispanic plaintiffs allege that El Centro's at-large election system violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, both because it "dilutes" the ability of Hispanic voters to elect candidates of their choice and also because it impairs their ability to "influence" elections.
Vote dilution occurs when a minority group is unable to elect candidates at-large whom it could elect within a single member district where the group is a majority. Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 68, 92 L. Ed. 2d 25, 106 S. Ct. 2752 (1986). Thornburg, the leading case interpreting Section 2, sets out the following three preconditions which minority plaintiffs must establish to prove vote dilution:
1. The minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single member district.
2. The minority group is politically cohesive.
3. The white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it, in the absence of special circumstances, to usually defeat the minority's preferred candidate.
Id. at 48-50. If all three preconditions are established, the Court then must consider, under a "totality of circumstances" analysis, whether a current condition of vote dilution exists.
After considering the evidence at trial as well as the legal memoranda submitted by the parties and arguments of counsel, the Court, having filed its written Decision on November 1, 1994, now hereby makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
1. El Centro Elementary School District is located in Imperial County. Since approximately 1906, it has employed an at-large electoral system to select its Board of Trustees, which now has five members. Every voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot for all five Trustee seats. There are no districts. This system is authorized by state law. Cal. Educ. Code §§ 35012, 5019, 5020, 5030.
2. Elections are held every two years in odd-numbered years and staggered so that either two or three seats are elected every two years. The two or three candidates receiving the two or three highest vote totals of all candidates running are elected to four year terms of office. There is no majority vote requirement and no runoff election.
3. Voters may cast two or three ballots in each election for the two or three seats up for election, but there is no "anti-single shot" requirement
that a voter must cast as many ballots as seats up for election in order for his or her vote to count. They may "bullet vote," or cast just one ballot if they choose to do so. Thus, Hispanics may vote once for a sole Hispanic candidate and deny Anglo candidates the other vote
, thereby improving the chances of electing an Hispanic candidate. 9/22/94 Trial Transcript ("Tr."), Dr. Rabinovitz, p. 16; 10/12/94 Tr., Dr. Brischetto, p. 85.
4. The Hispanic population of El Centro has increased substantially since 1970. The 1990 Census indicated that the City of El Centro had a total population of 31,384 people, 65% of whom were Hispanic. Its demographic composition was as follows:
Anglo 8,890 28.3%
Black 1,186 3.8%
Asian/PI 642 2.0%
Other Race 184 0.6%
Hispanics 20,482 65.3%
Total 31,384 100.0%
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