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The threshold to establish liability under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is considered low. The Federal Voting Rights Act requires four conditions to be met to prove a city is not in compliance. The CVRA only has two condition requirements.
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A candidate must be a registered voter of the City of Menlo Park and must reside in the district they are running for at the time nomination papers are issued to the candidate. (Government Code § 34882.)
If the councilmember moves out of the district, they must vacate their City Council seat. (Government Code § 34882.)
Councilmembers whose terms are up in 2020 (Mueller and Carlton) may run for mayor in 2018 without giving up their City Council seats. Councilmembers who are up for re-election in 2018 must choose to run either for a City Council district seat or mayoral seat.
Yes, assuming they do not choose to vacate their seats while campaigning for mayor.
A special election will be conducted to fill the vacancy. (Municipal Code § 2.04.190.)
No, candidates may not simultaneously run for incompatible offices. (Elections Code § 10220.5.)
On August 21, 2017, the City received a letter from Attorney Kevin Shenkman demanding that the City Council elections transition from the current “at-large” method to by-district” in order to conform to the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Mr. Shenkman alleges that the City of Menlo Park is in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and that “racially polarized voting” occurs in the city.The City Council is taking advantage of AB 350, California Elections Code 10010, which provides for a short window on opportunity to discuss, invite and receive public input and ultimately decide if the City should adopt a district based elections process.The key provisions of AB 350 affords the City an additional 90 days to comply before a lawsuit can be filed as it is safe harbored from litigation throughout the public hearing and ordinance process.
The Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) was adopted in 1965 and is intended to protect the rights of all citizens to participate in the voting process. The CVRA was passed in the California State Legislature in 2001, based on the Legislature’s belief that minorities and other members of protected classes were being denied the opportunity to have representation of their choosing at the local level because of a number of issues associated with at-large elections. Upon a finding of a violation of the CVRA, the act requires that “the court shall implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections that are tailored to remedy the violation.” As such, the default remedy and the clearly identified remedy by the Legislature is district-based elections.
Read more about the FVRA, the CVRA and CVRA Safe Harbor information.
Dozens of cities, school districts and other local agencies in California have faced similar challenges in recent years.Other cities have voluntarily or been forced to adopt changes to their method of electing City Council members. While some cities have settled claims out of court by agreeing to shift to district elections, others have defended at-large elections through the court system and have incurred significant legal costs because the CVRA gives plaintiffs the right to recover attorney fees.
A by-district election process means voters within a designated City Council electoral district elect one City Council member who must also reside in and be a registered voter of that district.
The City of Menlo Park currently elects City Council members through an at-large election process, which means that each voter elects all members of the City Council.
Many factors may be considered, but population equality is the most important. Other factors include:
A community of interest is a neighborhood or community that would benefit from being in the same district because of shared interest, view or characteristics. Possible community features or boundary definitions include:
Residents in Menlo Park can attend public hearings and community meetings to learn about next steps in determining the process.If you are unable to attend the public meetings, the City of Menlo Park is pleased to provide you with live and archived public meetings online at menlopark.org/streaming. City Council meetings are also broadcast live on government access Channel 26.The City’s district elections project website will be updated as new information becomes available.