Merced City Council takes no action on potential lawsuit by Latino group

04/16/2014 8:56 PM

04/16/2014 9:29 PM

The Merced City Council took no action during a closed-session meeting related to a potential lawsuit that seeks to push the city to change to district elections.

The 21/2-hour meeting, scheduled early this week, was in response to a warning letter sent to the council by the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund earlier this month. The letter warned the city that it faces potential litigation without a “satisfactory response” by May 1.

Council members were briefed by the city attorney and staff but took no vote during the meeting.

The civil rights organization says complaints from Latino voters sparked an investigation of the city’s demographic and electoral information.

It blames what it sees as a lack of Latino representation in government on Merced’s at-large election system, in which council members are elected to represent the entire city as opposed to individual districts.

Although Latinos make up more than 49 percent of Merced’s population, none of the current six City Council members are Latino and there hasn’t been a Latino member in nearly a decade. About 33 percent of registered voters in Merced are also Latino, according to the civil rights organization.

The council is set to discuss the matter further during closed and open sessions at Monday’s regular meeting, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St. The closed session is scheduled beforehand.

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