The city of Santa Barbara is bracing for the inevitable change to district elections after the at-large voting system for its city council election was challenged under the Voting Rights Act. According to the Santa Barbara Independent, the city has approved $400,000 to hire a notable voting rights attorney, not to win its lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial soon, but to prepare a new district map and perhaps negotiate a settlement. City officials point out two cities that lost in similar challenges; Palmdale and Whittier.
Like many local jurisdictions around the country, formally homogeneous populations are changing rapidly into multi-ethnic communities with growing Hispanic or other minority populations. When this happens, the old way of electing representatives; usually in at-large elections, becomes a hindrance to those growing minority populations. This situation is ripe for vote dilution lawsuits under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Yakima, Washington is another example.