The Port San Luis Harbor District is the latest jurisdiction in San Luis Obispo County to face the threat of litigation over its at-large election system.
FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF PORT SAN LUIS HARBOR DISTRICT
DRAWING DISTRICTS The Port San Luis Harbor Commission will discuss a proposed resolution declaring its intent to develop a district-based election system at a meeting on Jan. 26.
On Dec. 17, 2020, the district received a letter
from Santa Barbara-based attorney Robert Goodman—sent on behalf of Harbor District voter Jenna Garcia—noting the district’s violation of the California Voting Rights Act, a state law that prohibits at-large election systems that make it difficult for underserved demographics to elect candidates of their choice. While the California Voting Rights Act is intended to increase representation of minority groups among local governments, some say the law goes too far and makes it nearly impossible for cities to fight incoming lawsuits.
“District elections are sweeping California,” Goodman wrote in his letter to the Harbor District. “As far as this office is aware, no government agency in California has successfully defended a complaint alleging violation of the California Voting Rights Act. For this reason, we recommend a collaborative settlement which would cap costs to the Port San Luis Harbor District and enable more participation by the board of commissioners in the transition to district elections that would be the case through a court action.”
In the letter, Goodman wrote that if the commission adopts a resolution outlining its intent to transition from at-large to district elections, it could defer that transition to the election of November 2022 and delay hearings to draw district lines. Redistricting reimbursement costs to the district would also be capped at $30,000.
“District elections elsewhere have been tied not just to greater representativeness on but to more candidates seeking election to boards and councils,” Goodman wrote, “and to greater participation and interest by the community in local government agencies and elections.”
The commission will discuss a proposed resolution
declaring its intent to develop a district-based election system at a meeting on Jan. 26. ∆