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District Election FAQ

District Elections FAQs

What is the difference between “at large” and “district” elections?

The City of Mission Viejo currently elects its five City Council members “at large,” meaning each registered voter in the City has the opportunity to vote for all City Council Candidates seeking seats in an election.

Under a district-based election system, the City is separated into generally comparable geographic sections (districts). Voters within each district will vote only for candidates living within that specific district; voters will not vote for candidates residing outside of the district the voter lives within.

Why is the City moving to district elections?

History of district elections

What is “racially polarized voting”?

Racially polarized voting does not imply an intentional or discriminatory intent.  Instead, it is a demographic based conclusion that exists when voters of different racial or ethnic groups exhibit different candidate preferences or electoral choices in an election, as compared to the rest of the electorate. It does not mean there are no minority candidates or that minority candidates have not been elected.  It does not focus on candidates but on the votes.  Generally, it means the candidates that minority voters preferred, regardless of heritage, did not get elected.  Thus, the minority voters did not “have their voices heard”. The CVRA seeks to help, but not guarantee, minority voter preferred candidates be successful in their candidacy. Under the CVRA, methodologies for establishing racially polarized voting are defined by case law enforcing the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. Sec. 10301 et seq.).  

What are the Federal and California Voting Rights Acts?

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.

Have other cities encountered this required change from at large to by district elections? What did they do?

Hundreds of cities, school districts and other local agencies in California have considered the change to district voting.  Some of those faced similar legal challenges in recent years, while others changed for various other reasons. To date, no city has successfully defended a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit. This fact could change as there are cities currently in litigation over the CVRA.

What is the process for transitioning to district elections?

  • The districting process timeline is prescribed by the California Elections Code Section 10010.  Projected timeframe, subject to adjustment based on variable and legal requirements.    
  • Current date through December 14, 2021: demographic analysis stage.
  • December 14, 2021  Complete existing conditions report and open map submission period.
  • January 6, 2022  Close map submittal period.
  • January 24, 2022  Present maps and revise if needed.
  • February 14, 2022  Final consideration and map selection.

What criteria is used to draw the districts and who creates them?

Many factors may be considered, but population homogeneous characteristics and general equality are the most important. Other factors include:

  • Topography: natural barriers, boundaries or landmarks
  • Geography: major streets and neighborhood blocks
  • Cohesiveness: contiguity, integrity and compactness of the area
  • Communities of Interest: established neighborhoods, groups with cultural bonds, common issues or concerns, voting precincts or other types of divisions

Community input and Census data will be used to create districts. The City has hired Professional Demographer Redistricting Partners to help create proposed district boundaries. Beginning on or before December 14, 2021, the community will have access to ‘public mapping tool kits’ to provide feedback on how districts could be drawn. The City’s hired demographer will draft proposed maps that ensure compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Act and the California Voting Rights Act requirements. The City Council would then adopt the final district map and district vote timing, staggered terms and more, by ordinance.

How can I participate?

Residents can participate through a variety of in-person or remote opportunities. View the schedule for a list of public hearings and community workshops.

You can also participate by using our online mapping tool expected for release on or before December 14, 2021, or by emailing districtelections@cityofmissionviejo.org.

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