Why did the City of San Rafael transition to district elections?

I found this fascinating.

Why did the City of San Rafael transition to district elections?

In 2002, the Legislature enacted the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) (Elec. Code §§14025 – 14032), which prohibits California public agencies, including municipal governments, from imposing or applying an at-large election method “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election” (Elec. Code §14027). A protected class is defined by the CVRA as “a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group, as this class is referenced and defined in the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965”.

In a lawsuit brought pursuant to the CVRA, a plaintiff who establishes a history of “racially polarized voting” under a city’s at-large election system can require a city to change to a district-based election system. This past November 2017, the City received a letter (English/Spanish) from an attorney, asserting racially-polarized voting in San Rafael. On January 16, 2018, the City Council adopted a resolution outlining its intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections, which included specific steps the City will undertake to facilitate the transition, and an estimated time frame for doing so. The CVRA provides that the City must adopt an ordinance implementing district-based elections within 90 days, or by no later than April 16, 2018.

This would be excellent precedent for encouraging cities to move from At-Large voting to a form of Proportional Representation.

District based elections don’t solve any “history of racially polarized voting” as long as they do not encourage proportional representation, and use “choose one” voting methods.

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Lowell, MA is exploring moving from at-large to districted. I talked to people involved in the reform effort about Proportional Representation but they couldn’t hear it. They’ve only heard of districted elections and they think in those terms. They think they can probably get an immigrant district and a rich district and a poor district and that will represent people. I tried to suggest we could do that better and they just waved me away.

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Maybe multi-member districts? A single-winner method could be run on the ballots to determine who represents the entire district, then 2 representatives could be chosen proportionally per district.

Let us know if CES can help. We’re happy to give presentations and assist in efforts. Always better to bring in the organization so we can make formal efforts.
Though, I should say we don’t formally deal with Proportional methods yet, as I don’t believe there’s a good consensus as to which method is “best”

Talk about Asset Voting. Anyone who attempts PR should seriously consider this.

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I think you are trying to reinvent this.

For municipal elections where specific regional issues are more important than ideological issues a system with partisan voting (MMP or Party List) will result im worse representation than a system with district voting.

It’s more of a combination of single-winner and multi-winner i.e. each district elects one district-wide representative through IRV, and the other two representatives from each district through STV, all done on the same ranked ballots. Other methods, like Score and SSS could be paired; it may alleviate concerns about PR, since only some of the representatives are elected by PR. Maybe each district could elect its own representative, and an at-large election could be done to select 3 or 4 PR representatives; that minimizes the ratio of PR representatives to district representatives, and also can somewhat guarantee that protected voter classes will be represented in one of the districts, if not through PR.

Why not let each candidate declare which district they want to represent, and show both that and which district the voter is in on the ballot? Any voter in PR who wants a district representative can give such a candidate a distinct advantage over similar but less geographically representative candidates.

It’s amazing how much of a disconnect there is between the people who know what they’re talking about and the people who make laws. :expressionless:

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