City Council to consider criteria for creating election districts

City Council to consider criteria for creating election districts
Posted on 08/11/2016

At a special meeting scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 16, the City Council will consider a resolution to begin the process toward adoption of a “district-based” election system, replacing the City’s current “at-large” system in time for the November 2018 General Municipal Elections.

Recent concern regarding whether at-large elections may violate the 2002 California Voting Rights Act led to the passage of Senate Bill 493 on Jan. 1, 2016, allowing cities with a population of fewer than 100,000 to convert to “by-district” voting by ordinance adopted by the City Council.

In light of litigation and threatened litigation against a number of California cities under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) alleging racially polarized voting in elections for City Council, on May 17, 2016, the Redlands City Council directed staff to seek an outside consultant to advise staff and assist in exploring a change to by-district elections in order to avoid an expensive and extended legal battle and to preserve the City’s ability to draw its own district lines. To date, no California city has prevailed in legal challenges against an at-large voting system. On July 19, 2016, the Council approved an agreement with National Demographics Corporation to provide consulting services.

Conversion to a district-based election system will create five districts relatively equal in population. Once fully implemented, each Council Member will be required to reside within a district and would be elected only by the voters of that district. Council Members elected under the current at-large system would serve out the remainder of their existing terms before they are subject to the district election requirements.

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, representatives of National Demographics Corporation will provide information for the Council and the public on methods for drawing boundary lines for individual City Council districts. The council will also consider a resolution establishing criteria for the process of drawing district boundaries, with the intention of adopting district boundaries in time for the City’s November 2018 General Municipal Election.

The process will involve multiple opportunities for the public to be involved in the drawing of district boundaries.

Under state and federal law voting districts must meet the following criteria:

  • Each Council District shall contain a nearly equal number of inhabitants
  • Council District borders shall be drawn in a manner that complies with the Federal Voting Rights Act
  • Each council district shall not be drawn with race as the predominate factor in violation of the principles established by the United States Supreme Court in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993), and its progeny

Residents are encouraged to visit the City’s By-District Voting web page at http://cityofredlands.org/By-District-Voting.

As the process progresses, residents will find online tools on the website to assist them in drawing boundaries for consideration, along with the requirements for balanced districts.

The City Council meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers at 35 Cajon St. Closed session begins at 5 p.m., followed by the public meeting at 6 p.m. City Council meetings are televised live and rebroadcast on Redlands TV Channel 3 (for Time Warner cable customers) and Channel 35 (for Frontier cable customers). Meetings are also live streamed and archived for viewing on demand on the City’s website at www.cityofredlands.org.