AB 278 Could Change How Elk Grove City Council Members are Elected

UPDATED March 18 - 2 p.m. March 17, 2015 | A bill introduced today at the California Assembly could change how Elk Grove City Council...

UPDATED March 18 - 2 p.m.

March 17, 2015 |

A bill introduced today at the California Assembly could change how Elk Grove City Council members are elected. 

The legislation, Assembly Bill 278 introduced by California Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) would compel about 20 cities, including Elk Grove, to elect council members on a by-district basis. Currently Elk Grove, and these other cities, elect their council's on a "from district" or "at large" basis.   
Assemblymember Roger Hernandez introduces AB 278

 that would require about 20 California cities to change to

 by-district election of city council members. 
Hernandez said that several cities have been taken to court by voters to dismantle the at-large method of electing council members and have been compelled to change. 

"I challenge local governments to embrace district-based elections in order to bring justice to the residents, now, not when mandated by courts," he said. "Lets stop spending taxpayer dollars unnecessarily on litigation and bring better representation to our communities."

AB 278 is part of a three bill package introduced to broaden voters rights and increase participation. AB 182 would allow judicial challenges to district based elections that are not currently covered the California Voting Rights Act, and Senate Bill 415 which would prohibit holding elections on a dates other than a statewide primary or general election.

AB 278 is being sponsored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) and SB 415 is sponsored by Ben Hueso (D-San Diego).

During his presentation, Hueso noted that several large municipalities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, hold elections in odd numbered years resulting in voter turnout substantially lower than in even numbered mid-term, and Presidential election years.    

"In Los Angeles, the second largest county, they saw a turnout of eight-point-six percent this past March," Hueso said. "That's almost nobody coming out to vote."

According to a report by the Public Policy Institute, a survey found that simply changing an election to an even number year can result in a 21-36 percent increase in voter turnout. If any of the legislation is passed and signed into law, it would become effective in 2018. 

Elk Grove voters currently elect its four members on a from-district basis and the mayor on citywide basis. The Elk Grove City Council has started exploring the possibility of changing to a by-district system.

All four Elk Grove Councilmembers and the Mayor were contacted seeking comment on AB 278 but none have responded. Assembly Member Jim Cooper's office was contacted and an aid said Cooper supports the legislation. 

Following the press conference held on the south steps of the State Capitol, Hernandez emphasized that electing by-district allows neighborhoods to elect their advocates to city councils that will represent their specific interests. He also said it would make elections more accessible to candidates who may not have the financial resources to fund expensive citywide elections.    

"It shouldn't have to cost, $50,000, $100,000, $200,00 to run for a city council seat," Hernandez added.

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Connie said...

The Elk Grove City Council is already considering changing to a “by district” system with initial discussions of putting the question on the ballot for the 2016 Primary. If is passes, then “by district” voting would take place in the 2016 General election.

The Council’s rationale is that it would end the appointment process and special elections would be held in the event a council member left midterm for whatever reason. Many are in agreement with this change, including this one voice, one vote.

However, as we all know, the CA Latino Legislative Caucus is very powerful in state government and their motivation, which has some very valid points, is different than ours here in Elk Grove.

So let’s see what the Elk Grove City Council does: Do they wait to see what the outcome of AB 278 is, or do they put “local control” in effect and put it to the vote of the public next year?

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