What are by district elections?

A by-district election process means voters within a designated Council electoral district elect one City Council member who must also reside in and be a registered voter of that district.

What qualifications are needed to run for a district council seat?

A candidate must be a registered voter and must reside in the district they are running for at the time nomination papers are issued to the candidate.

Where can I learn more about districting and redistricting?

There are a number of online publications and guides to redistricting. You can start with this one from MALDEF and the NAACP, or this (long) one from the Brennan Centerthis one from the League of Women Voters, or this FAQ from the California Independent Redistricting Commission.

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.

Read about the FVRA and the CVRA.

Have other cities encountered this? What did they do?

Dozens of cities, school districts and other local agencies in California have faced similar challenges in recent years.

Other cities have voluntarily or been forced to adopt changes to their method of electing City Council members. While some cities have settled claims out of court by agreeing to shift to district elections, others have defended at-large elections through the court system and have incurred significant legal costs because the CVRA gives plaintiffs the right to recover attorney fees.

What kind of legal costs can be incurred if a city facing a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act does not change its election system?

Settlements are typically in the six, or even seven, figure range. For example:

  • Palmdale: $4.5 million
  • Modesto: $3 million
  • Rancho Cucamonga: $1.35 million
  • Highland: $1.3 million
  • Anaheim $1.1 million
  • Whittier: $1 million
  • Santa Barbara: $600,000
  • West Covina: $220,000

What does Census Block mean?

The online map making tool divides the city into Census blocks, the smallest unit of measurement used by the Census. Think of a census block as being roughly equivalent to a city block (although the census blocks are larger in less populated areas). It’s best not to split census blocks when creating your maps.

What do the acronyms and categories mean on the demographic sheets? 

These are standard categories included in the Census. Not all of the categories are relevant for creating district maps. Acronyms include:
NH: Non-Hispanic
VAP: Voting age population
CVAP: Citizen Voting Age Population
CVRA: California Voting Rights Act
NDC: National Demographics Corporation (the firm hired by the city to create the maps)