A year ago, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which filed the suit this month on behalf of Asian Americans and Latinos in the county, alerted the supervisors of this possibility. The committee is no paper tiger. It has an impressive and respected track record in similar voting rights act cases in California. Even prior to the committee's alert, in June of 2009, the county's 2008-09 Civil Grand Jury forewarned supervisors of possible voting rights violations.
The Board of Supervisors knew the current "at large" election system has serious voting rights flaws. It should have addressed these issues forthrightly by placing it on the ballot last November. While doing so, the board should have recommended a change to voting "by district," and explained why. Without this leadership, asking voters to support a "by district" system would be preordained to failure, as it has in past ballot efforts.
There seems to be a culture among some supervisors, especially former supervisors who appeared before the Charter Review Committee, to preserve a form of political incest using "at large" elections and filling vacancies on the Board of Supervisors by appointment. Irrespective of questions of voting rights violations of communities of color, "at large" elections is not good government.
I believe the majority of people in the county want to provide and maintain voting rights of all its citizens. The Board of Supervisor's opportunity to provide this leadership and accountability, unfortunately has now been abdicated to a judicial body. The 2008-2009 Civil Grand Jury did exercise leadership and accountability, for which many will be grateful.
Henry Organ lives in Menlo Park and was a member of the Charter Review Committee.