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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 10th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 10

Santa Maria chooses official district map

By DAVID MINSKY

On May 16, the Santa Maria City Council will formally adopt an official map to reflect the newly formed political districts for the upcoming council elections in 2018 and beyond.

The council had made a preliminary vote of 4-1 to choose map “N-1” at its May 2 meeting. It was the fourth such meeting held to determine how election districts would be legally divided in Santa Maria.

Historically, city elections have used an at-large system whereby the candidates in the entire city with the most votes filled the City Council rather than candidates in a particular district of the city. Hector Sanchez, a local businessman who ran for City Council in the last election and lost, threatened a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit challenging the system.


MAPPING POLITICS
Members of the Santa Maria City Council will vote on May 17 whether to formally adopt a district election map “N-1.”
MAP COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SANTA MARIA

Santa Barbara transitioned in 2015 to a district-based election system. In that case, the city settled a CVRA lawsuit and paid more than $800,000 in legal fees.

Rather than being on what would’ve most likely been the losing side of a lawsuit, Santa Maria decided on Feb. 21 to establish districts at the recommendation of City Attorney Gil Trujillo.

With the CVRA, plaintiffs only need to show that one group voted differently than another in order to prove the law was violated. However, creating districts must be done in accordance with federal law, like making districts with more or less equal populations and not using race as a dividing factor.

The city narrowed the maps down from 16 to three then to one. To help with drawing up maps, the city solicited suggestions from the public and hired Claremont-based National Demographics Corporation, which drew map N-1.

The map divides the city into four districts, the boundaries of which all meet at the center of town at Broadway and Main Street. Two districts, the southwest and southeast districts, will see their first elections in 2018.

At the May 2 meeting, Councilmember Michael Moats was the lone dissenter in choosing the final map. He cited several reasons for his opposition to map N-1, noting that it split Latino voters into three groups instead of two.

“Not only that, Map N concentrates white people into area four, with the highest predominance of white people in any of the maps,” Moats said. “I don’t like map N.”

Moats then expressed his support for map J, which received applause from the audience, of whom several members were seen holding up signs for map J.

Many on the council and in the audience strongly opposed map H, as well as map N, although Councilmember Jack Boysen said the latter was a better option since it met federal law and optional guidelines, including keeping communities of interest intact.

“For me, map N meets more of those criteria than any of the other maps,” Boysen said at the meeting. “Nobody’s going to be happy with everything on the map.”

Some believed map N wasn’t the right choice, with one person saying during public comment that it was chosen to avoid head-to-head races with sitting councilmembers.

“[Map] N is totally not something we should be considering,” Connie Ford said. “It just speaks volumes to protecting councilmembers’ seats.”




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