Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club Hears Pitch for By-District Voting Before Next Month's Crucial Vote

Jim Kelly discussing by-district election before the Elk Grove-
South County Democratic club. 

August 10, 2017 |  

In a presentation to the Elk Grove-South County Democratic Club, club members heard how voters in Elk Grove could change how city council members are elected. The matter was discussed before club members will vote in September on whether or not to support a club resolution supporting by-district representation 

The presentation, made by Elk Grove resident and club member Jim Kelly, discussed how city council could be converted to a by-district basis from the current from-district system. In a by-district system, candidates are elected from a specific area, while in the current from-district system requires a council member to live in a specific district but be elected on a citywide basis.

Among the reasons cited by Kelly for the change included more participation in elections and more responsiveness by council members to district constituents. He noted that instead of having to run a campaign to reach 100,000 voters, if the four current districts were maintained, that number would drop to 25,000.  

“With a smaller electorate to communicate with, there should be less outside influence by large donors,” Kelly said. “The city council members’ reelection become less automatic.”

An additional benefit noted by Kelly in switching to a by-district system is the recall election mechanism changes. The threshold for seeking a recall would be lowered, and thus council members would be more aware of constituent needs.

Kelly also discussed the legal mechanics of qualifying an initiative for the ballot and the review process. This stage, he said is crucial as opponents will look for ways to disqualify it from appearing on the ballot.

“The opponents won’t go after the initiative, they will go after the technicalities,” he said. “That seems to be the way that people who don’t like initiative go at it.”

Among several requirements needed to qualify, the initiative proponents need to gather at least 10-percent of voters who participated in the most recent election to be eligible to appear on the general election ballot. In Elk Grove’s case, that would be around 8,900 signatures.

Once the initiative has been qualified, supporters have 180 days to gather the signatures. Based on experience, Kelly said they would collect more than the minimum to account for disqualified signatures.

While many initiative supporters employ paid gatherers, Kelly hopes to enlist at least 100 volunteers to collect the required signatures. The task could be accomplished Kelly said if each volunteer could go door-to-door to collect 100 signatures.

Kelly said Council Members Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, Darren Suen, and Stephanie Nguyen did not respond to email requests he sent seeking their position on by-district voting. Suen and Nguyen, along with Mayor Steve Ly are Democrats. 

 “The general members of the City Council seem pretty opposed to the initiative to change how we elected them,” Kelly noted. “They are not in favor of this.” 

The matter will be discussed at next month’s meeting when members will vote whether or not to support a resolution in support of by-district representation on the Elk Grove City Council as well as other entities like the Elk Grove Unified School District and Cosumnes Community Services Districts. 

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