The California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) establishes criteria in state law through which the validity of at-large election systems can be challenged in court. At-large election systems are the most common method of electing council members. With at-large election systems, voters of the entire jurisdiction elect the members. With a by-district election system, only the voters in a given district vote to choose the council member to represent that specific district. Candidates must live in the district in which they are running for office.
The CVRA was enacted with the specific intent of eliminating several key burden of proof requirements that exist under the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. The constitutionality of this act has been challenged and upheld — and since then attorneys have begun filing legal action against cities across the state compelling conversion to by-district systems.