District Voting News
7/13/21 City Council Meeting reporting out of Closed Session - Statement Read by Council Member Raths at the 7/13/21 City Council Meeting reporting out of Closed Session
“MISSION VIEJO NO LONGER PURSUES CUMULATIVE OR RANKED CHOICE VOTING TO BENEFIT MINORITY VOTERS, MOVES TO DISTRICTS.”
The City Council has fought to ensure that the minority voters living in Mission Viejo were provided the greatest opportunity to have their votes have the greatest impact. After over three years of working with two Secretaries of State, legislative staff, and the Governor’s Office to best support our minority voters, but without success, the time to make a final decision is upon us.
Unlike many cities that immediately adopted district voting without questioning the challenge, your City Council took additional community-oriented steps to see if there was a violation and how best to cure it if present:
- Analyzed City of Mission Viejo’s demographics to determine if the at-large voting system really did produce voting results that violated the California Voting Right Act (it did violate the California Voting Rights Act); and,
- Determined which voting structures being used across the nation would give a “real” voice to minority voters rather than immediately defaulting to less beneficial district-based voting; and
- Pursued statutory interpretations recommended and supported by the minority voters, as plaintiffs, and the City Council, to give the best voice to the vote cast by minority voters.
We have now concluded that despite acknowledgement from the Secretary of State that change to allow cumulative or ranked choice voting is being considered throughout the State, that continuing Mission Viejo’s leadership in this voting issue is not helpful to Mission Viejo voters and candidates. Sacramento has closed the door, at present, to this voting system being implemented on administrative basis. We would need to have further litigation or cause a clarifying statute to be adopted to offer this beneficial voting privilege to our community. We have worked with representatives of the legislature, legislative members and two Secretaries of State to obtain administrative approval of cumulative voting. The California Voting Act allows judicially approved alternatives to district-based voting. The worthy alternatives include cumulative or ranked choice voting. However, these options for change are seemingly too significant for State staff to authorize. Thus, as Sacramento will not allow ranked choice or cumulative voting to best serve our minority residents, we must now defer to the “one size fits all” “District” voting remedy. In Mission Viejo, it is not possible to form a district which includes mostly minority voters, because our minority voters do not live in one area; they live throughout the city. It is unfortunate that the best interests of our minority voters cannot be served, but your City Council tried very hard to achieve a system which would give them a greater voice.
Accordingly, the Voting Rights subcommittee comprised of Mayor Kelley and Councilman Raths has recommended to the whole of the City Council that, pursuant to our court order, the City proceed with the creation of voting districts and employ them for the 2022 local election.
We had sincerely hoped for a better outcome for Mission Viejo’s minority voters, but Sacramento is not allowing any option other than District voting absent expensive legislative or legal efforts.
We do note and appreciate the assistance of the new California Secretary of State, Dr. Shirley Weber, and her team, for the positive assistance they have provided to the City Council and staff. Her insights as to possible future voting system that will better serve minority voters is encouraging for those cities also seeking to support their minority voters by using advantageous voting systems.