Murrieta Valley Unified School District forced to consider trustee elections by districts under threat of lawsuit

The Murrieta Valley Unified School District held a public hearing, Oct. 26, to discuss switching their election system from “at- large” to “by trustee.” The board of education heard a presentation by attorney William B. Tunick on the California Voting Rights Act and the process and schedule for a potential transition to by trustee area elections.

The meeting was prompted by lawsuit threats from the law firm of Shenkman and Hughes, who has used the California Voting Rights Act as the basis to sue several cities and municipalities throughout Southern California, most recently in the city of Murrieta.

The law firm sent a letter in late September on behalf of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project claiming that the district’s use of an at-large election system “dilutes the ability of Latinos to elect candidates of their choice,” along with disenfranchising voters. The letter prompts that voters throughout the district’s boundaries should elect board trustees.

The district has until Feb. 1 to respond or to face a lawsuit.

According to Public Information Officer Karen Parris, “The district is committed to structures that most effectively involve all community members in the democratic process of elections creating the most democratic process, but the fact is, no community members have voiced concerns about our board election processes and this notice is the first communication the District has received on the issue.”

No other districts or municipalities have successfully defending the lawsuits brought by Shenkman and Hughes in court in spite of spending millions of dollars in legal expenses. 

“What that means is that of all of the cities and districts that have been contacted by Shenkman and Hughes, have made the decision to switch to by-trustee voting because there is little chance of prevailing in court,” Parris said.

Board meetings on Dec. 14Jan. 18 and Feb. 1 will include presentations and discussion on the process and schedule for a potential transition to by trustee area elections and the public will have an opportunity to give their input during those public hearings.

For more information, contact Public Information Officer Karen Parris at (951) 696-1600 ext. 1022.

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