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Nov 03

City considers transition to district-based election system

Posted on November 3, 2017 at 2:48 pm by Meghan Revolinsky

By: Clay Curtin

Starting in November 2018, the City of Menlo Park may transition from at-large to district elections. On August 21, 2017, the City received a certified letter from the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes claiming the City violates the California Voting Rights Act (Elec. Code §§ 14025-14032) because City Council members are elected at-large rather than by districts. Dozens of other local government agencies in California have faced similar challenges in recent years, and have generally been unsuccessful in defending the challenge, often after spending millions of dollars.

On October 4, 2017, the City Council adopted a Resolution of Intention No. 6404, taking advantage of a legal protection provided by the California Voting Rights Act, commonly referred to as “safe harbor,” that enables cities to manage the district boundary drawing process and avoid costly litigation. This safe harbor protection applies only to cities that promptly state their intent to voluntarily transition to district elections and proceed diligently to do so. To stay within the safe harbor, the City Council is required to hold five public hearings and to adopt final district boundaries within 90 days of adoption of its Resolution of Intention.

In order to prepare for the development of district boundaries, and to receive input from community members, a series of public hearings will be held before the City Council. Community-provided input and direction from the City Council will be used by independent demographers to inform the development of the district boundaries. After the first two Public Hearings, draft district maps will be drawn, and the third, fourth and fifth Public Hearings will allow the public the opportunity to respond and provide recommendations regarding the proposed district boundaries and the potential sequence of elections.

For more information and to view additional information as it becomes available, visit Community members are also invited and encouraged to share input, comments and feedback. Comments received will be shared with the City Council as part of the public record at the upcoming public hearings.

City considers transition to district-based election system