Elk Grove is unique for its diversity – no major ethnic group has a majority, and each one has sizable populations in the middle-class suburb.

But a Malibu civil rights attorney alleges that racial harmony eludes the city at the ballot box.

In a letter sent to the city last month, Kevin Shenkman said that Elk Grove’s election system disenfranchises minority voters. Elk Grove uses a system that allows residents to vote for all four district council members, but each member must represent a specific geographic area in the city.

Elk Grove currently has three Asian American members out of five seats – the fifth is the mayor, elected citywide – though Asian Americans comprise only 28 percent of the population.

“Elk Grove’s at-large system dilutes the ability of Latinos (a “protected class”) – to elect candidates of their own choice or otherwise influence the outcome of the City’s Council elections,” the letter reads. “Given the historical lack of Latino representation on the Elk Grove City Council in the context of racially polarized elections, we urge Elk Grove to voluntarily change its at-large system of electing City Council members.”

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