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District-Based Voting

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   Background

The Arcadia City Council has taken action to consider transitioning to a district-based voting system to select its City Council Members, replacing its current at-large election system.

On June 6, 2017, the City of Arcadia (“City”) received a letter from Kevin L. Shenkman of the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes. The letter asserts that the City’s current citywide (or “at-large”) voting system is not in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act (Elec. Code § 14025 et seq.) (“CVRA”). The letter demands that the City transition from at-large to district-based City Council elections and threatens litigation if that demand is not met.

Letter from Kevin L. Shenkman of the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes

Arcadia currently utilizes an at-large election system in which electors from the entire city choose each of the five City Council Members.  In a district-based election system the city is divided into separate geographic districts, each with one City Council Member who resides in the district and is chosen by the electors residing in that district.

 Voting Rights Act Lawsuits

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Over the last several years, cities throughout California have been served warning letters and lawsuits regarding alleged violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).  To date, NO city that has been challenged with a CVRA lawsuit has successfully defended the right to maintain at-large electoral voting.  Several cities have spent millions of dollars in attorneys' fees; only to lose the case and be made to pay the Plaintiffs Legal Fees as well. Over 55 cities have changed their at-large systems to district based, and several other neighboring cities including Monrovia, South Pasadena, and Glendora are considering similar measures.  The switch to District based elections was no easy decision for the City Council. In fact, the vote was divided 3-2 after much debate. Ultimately, the cost of litigation and the potential for losing were too high to ignore.

 Process

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Under Government Code § 34886 and Elections Code § 10010, the process of conversion consists of: two public hearings; the drawing of draft maps; two additional public hearings; and finally, adoption of an ordinance selecting a district map and establishing the process by which staggered district elections will be implemented. Each district would elect one Councilmember to a four-year term.

On July 21, 2017, the City Council adopted a Resolution of Intention ("ROI") stating that the City will consider establishing district- based elections for City Council members. Under statutory safe harbor provisions, the process of conversion proceeds as follows:

  • First public hearing (to be held immediately following adoption of the ROI)
  • Second public hearing (within 30 days of First public hearing)
  • Release draft map or maps to the public (not less than 7 days before 3rd public hearing)
  • Third public hearing
  • Fourth public hearing (within 45 days of the release of draft map(s))
  • Introduction and adoption of implementing ordinance (adoption must occur within 90 days of the ROI and not less than 7 days after release of final map to be adopted)

In order to stay within the State’s safe harbor protections and avoid potentially costly legal exposure in the event of a CVRA challenge, this process must be completed within a short 90-day window.

Initiating the process does not require that the City convert to district-based elections. The City Council must subsequently adopt an ordinance to accomplish that result. By remaining within the timing constraints of the safe-harbor statute, the City will limit its exposure to potential litigants if it ultimately transitions to district-based voting.

The following schedule has been adopted for consideration of the transition to by-district voting within the safe-harbor window. All meetings are scheduled to be held in the City Council Chambers located at 240 W. Huntington Drive, Arcadia, CA 91066 unless otherwise noted.

Please click here for an interactive view of the proposed district maps. 

Meeting Date/time  Purpose  Agenda Items
 July 21, 2017 at 7PM  Special Meeting

Staff Report

 August 1, 2017 at 7PM

 Public Hearing No. 1

Staff Report

 August 9, 2017 at 7PM

 Public Hearing No. 2

Staff Report
Public Map A-McDonald
Public Map B-McDonald
Public Map C-Vercillo

   Maps Submitted by Public

Public Map D-Mitulski
Public Map E-Mitulski
Public Map F-Mitulski
Public Map G-Chandler
Public Map H-Ursettie
Public Map I-Perez/Semain
Public Map J-Perez/Semain
Public Map K-Kovacic
Public Map L-McDonald

 August 30, 2017 at 7PM

 Publication of Draft Map(s)

Green Map (Updated)
Maroon Map (Updated)
Orange Map (Updated)
Purple Map (Updated) 
Teal Map (Updated) 
Yellow Map (Updated)
Public Maps A-L (Updated)

 September 7, 2017 at 6PM

 Public Hearing No. 3

Staff Report
Public Map K-Kovacic (Revised)

 September 19, 2017

 Public Hearing No. 4

Staff Report
 October 3, 2017

 Introduction of Ordinance

Staff Report
Ordinance No. 2350
Public Map M-Mitulski

 October 17, 2017

 Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance

Staff Report
Adopted Ordinance No. 2350


   Drawing District Boundaries

The Federal Voting Rights Act (“FVRA”) requires districts to contain essentially equal total populations. Small population deviations are permitted if they are necessary to achieve what the U.S. Supreme Court has labeled "traditional redistricting principles." These principles include: maintaining communities of interest; creating compact, contiguous districts; or using visible natural or manmade boundaries. A community of interest is a neighborhood or community that would benefit from being maintained in a single district because of shared interests, views, or characteristics.

Public input is vital to the drawing of district boundaries. The public’s input is needed to identify “communities of interest” and also to understand how a community wants to be represented: Do the residents of a particular community want that area to be kept together (to be a larger part of a single Councilmember’s district)? Or do the residents want to be divided (in order to have the interest of more than one City Councilmember)?

 Downloadable City of Arcadia Map

 Arcadia Map

If you would like to submit a proposed district map, please download the map above, outline the district boundaries, and email the map to Michael Bruckner at mbruckner@ArcadiaCA.gov.  

 Contact Us

More information will be provided on the City’s website as it becomes available. For questions, please contact Michael Bruckner, Assistant to the City Manager, at (626) 574-5433 or at mbruckner@ArcadiaCA.gov.