CYPRESS, Calif.—Cypress now faces two potential lawsuits after privately voting to reject new citywide election methods, and for refusing to release information from these private sessions on May 9.
Despite hundreds of cities in California agreeing to switch their city election methods to districts—voters choosing only one member who lives within their area—Cyress voted March 14 in closed session to continue allowing all residents to vote on all five seats despite threats of litigation.
According to the group threatening legal action—CalAware—Cypress officials violated state voting rights and transparency laws by privately voting to refuse changing their elections to district voting, and for refusing to release information from these private sessions.
Cypress denied these allegations in its response letter May 9, refusing again to release any communications from these private meetings.
“What is more troubling is the lack of acknowledgement that the city has held at least three public forums to present issues related to the … demand,” the city stated in its response to CalAware.
According to city attorney Fred Galante, the city implemented “robust” outreach methods in communicating its election voting plans with residents, including conducting “at least three public forums,” distributing videos describing the issue, conducting a community survey, and more.
“Given this robust public outreach effort, any argument that the city has not been overly transparent [about its decision to maintain at-large election voting] … is insincere,” Galante stated.
CalAware stated in its letter that the city violated transparency laws by refusing to release its communications from their private session vote, including a demographer’s report on how districts would look if the city were to change its election voting method.
In response, Mayor Paolo Morales stated that the demographer’s report was given in closed session and that he was told Cypress “doesn’t have that issue,” of discrimination in its voting that would necessitate the switch to district voting.
“We demand transparency, and the more we demand transparency, the more secretive you become,” Cypress resident Katie Shapiro said during the May 9 meeting regarding the Mayor’s comments. “Seeking and receiving information is a human right that can act as a safeguard against corruption and increase trust … please be transparent with us.”