On Tuesday, the Antioch City Council will vote on whether or not to accept a resolution on its intention to transition from At-Large Elections for the City Council to District-based elections for the City Council.
The move comes after the city received a letter on November 17, 2017 from Attorney Scott Rafferty that stated the city’s at-large electoral system dilutes the ability of Latino’s (a protected class) to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Antioch council elections.
Rafferty contends the City of Antioch violates the California Voting Rights Act.
Under the change, the City would move from electing four councilmembers and a mayor, a district-based election system would be created (four districts) and councilmembers would be elected based on electors residing in a particular district.
According to the Staff Report, the fiscal impact from the change will require significant staff time to make the transition and go through the process which includes five-public hearings. The will also incur the costs for demographer and potentially other consultants. The City is required to reimburse the plaintiff for its documented attorney fees and costs of up to $30,000.
In November, Brentwood City Clerk Margaret Wimberly confirmed the City of Brentwood received a nearly identical letter, however, they have not taken action. The letter encourages Brentwood to move to District elections. Currently, four council members live within the Deer Ridge and Shadow Lakes neighborhoods (2-miles of one another).
In November, both the City of Martinez and the Martinez Unified School District were served with correspondence by Shenkman & Hughes Law Firm who represents Martinez community members organized as Reform Martinez – District Elections Now.
The City of Martinez agreed to the move and recently released District maps. (Click here). Some residents, however, have claimed gerrymandering to protect the incumbents.
According to the City of Martinez, due to the significant costs of defending against these lawsuits, the vast majority of cities have therefore voted to voluntarily transition to district-based elections.
Examples of settlements:
– Anaheim $1.1 million
– Modesto – $3 million plaintiff’s attorney fees and $1.7 million for its own lawyers
– Palmdale – $4.7 million
– Santa Barbara – $600,000
– Tulare Hospital – $500,000
– Whittier – $1 million
Meanwhile, the City of Concord also announced it was moving to District Elections. Draft maps are currently being developed from comment taken at these public hearings. The city has launched a page on its website regarding their progress.
For the Antioch City Council Agenda, click here.