SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) The City of Santa Cruz said that it intends to transition from at-large elections for City Councilmembers to district-based elections over the course of the next year.
City officials said they hope to consider whether to establish district-based elections and district maps by March 2022, but they will ask for community feedback during several steps in the process, including when determining district boundaries and an election schedule.
The city said the change comes after it received a Notice of Claim Violation of the California Voting Rights Act in February 2020. The act outlaws discrimination in voting practices, and in California, a violation exists if a potential plaintiff can show that racially polarized voting affects their ability to either elect or influence the election of minority-preferred candidates. The city says racially polarized voting happens when there is a difference between the choice of candidate for voters in a protected class and electoral choices preferred by the rest of the voters.
The prospective plaintiff, in this case, says the City's at-large elections violated the CVRA and threatened to sue unless the city transitioned to district-based elections. Officials say they do not believe the at-large elections violate the CVRA but decided to consider a transition to avoid the cost and uncertainty.
Because there are seven councilmembers, the city said there will be seven districts if the change moves forward.