PALM DESERT – Karina Quintanilla, one of two women who filed a lawsuit against the city of Palm Desert to establish voting districts, plans to seek a seat on the City Council to represent District 1 in the Nov. 3 election.

Quintanilla was gathering signatures for her nomination papers Friday, July 24 at Magnesia Falls Park.

Quintanilla was is one of the plaintiffs in the suit against Palm Desert over the city’s at-large elections for city council. The settlement called for two districts, one around the downtown area of Palm Desert, and the other retaining an at-large election process.

Incumbent Councilmember Susan Marie Weber, an accountant, has also pulled papers for District 1. It would be her third term.

The city of Palm Desert will hold a General Municipal Election for the purpose of electing one councilmember from District 1, and two councilmembers from District 2.  This election will transition Palm Desert from at-large elections to by district elections.

You can locate your voting district using the interactive map on the city’s website by clicking here.

The lawsuit involving Quintanilla claimed the city violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and states that the city’s at-large voting system prevents Latino residents from electing candidates of their choice or influencing the outcome of Palm Desert’s City Council elections.

The suit was filed by the Malibu-based law office of Kevin Shenkman, of Shenkman & Hughes, on behalf of Lorraine Salas and Quintanilla.

About 65.2 percent — or 33,700 — of Palm Desert’s 51,700 residents are white and 25.9 percent — or 13,400 — are Hispanic or Latino, according to Data USA,

Palm Desert’s current City Council is comprised of four women and one man. None is Latinx.

In the most recent City Council election, Carlos Pineda was the only Latino candidate among five, including incumbents Jan Harnik and Sabby Jonathan. The incumbents handily won re-election, with Harnik gathering 11,413, or 37.84 percent, of the votes and Jonathan garnering 10,714, or 35.52 percent. Pineda, who died shortly after the election, finished with 2,380, or 7.89 percent, of the votes.

Since a California appeals court case struck down at-large districts in 2014, Shenkman & Hughes has sued or threatened to sue a number of California cities with a high percentage of minority voters but a majority of white elected representatives.

More than 300 jurisdictions have changed or are changing to by-district voting.

Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Indio all recently changed to voting districts. The Mission Springs Water District, in a pre-emptive move to thwart a lawsuit, voluntarily moved to district elections earlier this year.

Shenkman & Hughes had sent a letter to the Palm Desert city clerk in September 2017 urging the city to voluntarily change its at-large voting system to districts. The city did not.

Evan Trubee, the owner of Big Wheel Tours is running for a seat in District 2. He is hoping to unseat District 2 incumbents Kathleen Kelly, an ordained minister, and Gina Nestande, a real estate agent. Boht are incumbents.

Nomination period

If you are interested in running for City Council in either district, the nomination period is Monday, July 13, through 5 p.m. on Friday, August 7, 2020.  The nomination period extends to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, August 12, if an incumbent does not file for re-election by August 7.

Qualifications for office

  • 18 years of age
  • United States Citizen
  • Registered voter in the district you reside (a person’s domicile)
  • Not have been convicted of a felony

Nomination papers

All candidates are required to make an appointment with the City Clerk’s Office to obtain and file nomination papers.  You can contact the City Clerk via email, [email protected], or call (760) 776-6487.  Appointments take place at City Hall, 73510 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert, where everyone is required to wear a face covering.  A candidate may bring only one additional person with them when they obtain/file nomination papers.


Image Sources

  • Karina Quintanilla: Facebook