Create an Account - Increase your productivity, customize your experience, and engage in information you care about.
Show All Answers
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.
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.
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:
The City Council adopted a resolution indicating its intent to transition to district elections, and will hold several public hearings to take public testimony, suggestions and allow for community input in developing maps meeting these elements.
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:
The districting process timeline is prescribed by the California Election Code 10010.
The City has a 45 day period (from the receipt of the letter dated August 21, 2017) to consider if it desires to transition to election by districts and to adopt a resolution indicating so. Once the City Council adopts a resolution indicating its intent to transition to districts (adopted on October 4, 2017), the City has 90 days to do so. This process totals 135 days.
The plaintiff may agree to voluntarily delay filing a CVRA lawsuit and provide the City more time conduct public outreach and gather public input, if the agency is demonstrating progress.
A professional demographer is hired by the City to create proposed district boundaries, with suggestions and feedback from residents. Tools will be made available for the public to draw and submit sample maps. Residents will be able to provide input on boundaries and suggested criteria for creating boundaries. The district process will be transparent and accessible to all residents in the City of Menlo Park. Ultimately, the City Council adopts an ordinance establishing district boundaries.
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.