October 3, 2019
Milan Chang, (415) 848-7754
Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus Files Amicus Brief in Support of Asian American Plaintiffs in CVRA Lawsuit Against the City of Santa Clara
SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice – ALC) filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Asian American residents of the City of Santa Clara against their city, to enforce the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and protect the ability of minority groups to exercise their full democratic rights. The brief is authored by attorneys at the law firm of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, and is joined by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Asian Americans for Community
Involvement, the Hindu American Foundation; the San Jose, Sequoia, and Silicon Valley chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League; the Vietnamese American Roundtable; and the Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation.
The CVRA lawsuit is currently at the appellate level, after the City lost in Santa Clara County Superior Court and appealed the judgment. The Asian American community members bringing the lawsuit are attempting to address the fact that no Asian American was ever elected to Santa Clara City Council in the 70 years that the City used its former at-large election system, despite the fact that Asian Americans make up a huge portion of the City’s population (currently 39.5% of the city’s residents and 30.5% of the city’s eligible voters). Following the plaintiffs’ win in Superior Court, the Court implemented a district election system in the 2018 elections, promptly leading to the election of the Santa Clara’s first-ever Asian American council member. The City of Santa Clara chose to appeal despite now incontrovertible proof that the new election system mandated by the Court increased the diversity of its City Council
The amicus brief discusses the history of Asian American exclusion and discrimination in this nation and in California, the impact that history has on Asian American civic participation today, and the specific ways in which courts should interpret the CVRA to enable Asian American communities to vindicate their voting rights.
The amicus brief can be found online here.
Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus issues the following statement:
Asian Americans’ political opportunities in this state are still shaped by the exclusion experienced by generations of Californians through immigration prohibitions, denials of fundamental rights and privileges, and political districts that diminish the impact of our community’s voice. In light of the federal government’s continued assaults on voting rights across the country, the CVRA’s protections are crucial to ensure that Asian Americans and all other groups have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice and to meaningfully participate in California’s political processes.
“The CVRA worked exactly as it should in Santa Clara,” said Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights & Census Program Manager and Staff Attorney, “replacing an election system that had systematically and inarguably blocked the City’s Asian American community from achieving representation on City Council and replacing it with a district election system that immediately ended that ignominious history of exclusion.”
“Working in a state that prides itself on its diversity and the liberties it affords its residents, Advancing Justice – ALC is proud to build on a legacy of voter protection that will strengthen our democracy, enable our diverse communities to have a voice in California’s political institutions, and help our state live up to its ideals,” said Executive Director Aarti Kohli.
Advancing Justice – ALC would like to thank Keker, Van Nest & Peters, and specifically attorneys Adam Lauridsen, Connie Sung, and Cody Gray, for their excellent pro bono assistance on this important project.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, Advancing Justice – ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society. Every election cycle, Advancing Justice – ALC does Know Your Voting Rights education together with community partners, fights for increased language access in elections, and monitors hundreds of polling places to ensure that no voter encounters a barrier to the ballot.