The question of whether Santa Barbara has violated the California Voting Rights Act by holding at-large City Council elections is scheduled to be heard by a Superior Court judge in April.

Judge Donna Geck set an April 6 trial date for the case, which was brought by several Latino registered city voters who allege the at-large system dilutes their votes.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Barry Cappello, points to the lack of Latino representation on the City Council despite that fact that 38 percent of the city’s population is Latino or Hispanic.

The two sides have had case management conferences for months, and Cappello said the April trial date seems firm.  

Council members decided to put the issue on the November 2015 ballot, asking voters whether they support an election voting system with six council districts and one at-large mayor. If voters support district elections, they would take effect for the November 2017 election.

Plaintiffs want a nonjury trial soon so they can get a judgment before the city’s next at-large election in November. The five named plaintiffs are Frank Banales, Sebastian Aldana Jr., Jacqueline Inda, Cruzito Herrera Cruz and Benjamin Cheverez. 

The City of Santa Barbara filed a general denial in October, denying all allegations of the complaint, and recently hired brought on special counsel to serve as co-counsel for this case. Marguerite Leoni of Nielsen Merksama Parrinello Gross & Leoni specializes in civil litigation related to elections, redistricting and voting rights law.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at