NAME: California Voting Rights Act
WHAT IT DOES: The 2002 law is intended to promote the election of more people of color in local races. It amounts to an attack on "at-large" elections _ those in which candidates run citywide or within an entire school district _ that some say can be biased against minorities.
HOW IT DOES IT: The U.S. Supreme Court established several conditions in 1986 that lawyers must meet to prove an election system is watering down the voting strength of minorities. The California law eliminates one of the federal requirements. The result: voting-rights violations under the California act are easier to prove, allowing at-large elections to be replaced by elections in smaller districts.
THE CRITICISM: Some critics say the law is unconstitutional, claiming it makes race a predominant factor in elections. Also, unlike the federal scheme, lawyers do not have to show that the minority voters live in a compact enough area to create a smaller district in which a candidate from that group could win. But if lawyers can't create a district in which a minority candidate could win, than what is the point of breaking up an at-large districts?