New Voting Districts Increase Latino Representation on California College Board

Three Latinas were recently elected to the Cerritos College Board of Trustees in California–a landmark victory after the college switched its election system to comply with the California Voting Rights Act.

Following the 2010 Census, school districts and other entities that used at-large election systems came under fire for a lack of representation of their diverse populations.

To avoid lawsuits, many are voluntarily switching to a single-member voting district system, which can offer minority voters greater opportunities to elect candidates of their choice. Districts can be drawn in which the majority of voters are Latino, for example, in order to boost representation.  According to the group California Watch, about 70 school boards have applied to switch over to district elections since 2009.

A voting rights lawsuit was filed against Cerritos College last year on behalf of Latino voters who said they were not represented under the at-large system. The college said it was already changing its system when it was filed, and moved over to a single-member district system. In 2009-10, about 43 percent of students attending the southeast Los Angeles County college were Latino.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports that one of the plaintiffs in the suit against Cerritos College, Carmen Avalos, defeated an incumbent to win a seat on the board. She was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico as a child who later went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Cal State Long Beach. She now works as a city clerk.

“Now I feel we have equity,” she told the newspaper. “We have a board that now resembles our community.”

Do your local school and college boards reflect the diversity of their student body?

Related Links:

“District-voting system brings 3 Latinos to Cerritos College board.” Long Beach Press-Telegram. 

– “Creating Geographic Districts Could Boost Latino School Board Representation in California.” Latino Ed Beat. 

– “White-dominated boards face legal threats over racial makeup.” California Watch.

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