On July 9, 2018, the Livermore City Council initiated the process to transition from an at-large to district-based election system to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. The City Council made the decision after receiving a pre-lawsuit letter threatening to sue the City because it’s at-large electoral system allegedly violates the Act.
Cities throughout California are facing similar legal challenges to their at-large election systems. Most cities voluntarily shift to district-based elections when they receive the pre-lawsuit letters. The few cities that have defended their at-large election systems ultimately adopted district-based elections voluntarily or have been forced to adopt district based elections by the courts. Courts have consistently ruled that the Voting Rights Act is constitutional, and no city has successfully defended itself against an alleged violation. To help insulate cities from litigation costs, the state legislature recently created a safe harbor that limits the attorney’s fees a city must pay if it makes a voluntary transition within a short period of time.
The City of Livermore currently uses an at-large election system allowing all voters in the City to elect council members and the mayor. In a district-based election system, the City is geographically grouped into separate council member districts, and the voters that live within each district elect a candidate from that district. The number and make-up of the council member voting districts is decided by the Livermore City Council after a series of public hearings. The Mayor will continue to be elected at-large.
Public hearings have been held July 23, August 13, September 10, October 8, and October 22, 2018.The first two hearings gave the Livermore community an opportunity to weigh in on the composition of the districts. The two subsequent public hearings gave the community an opportunity to provide input on the draft maps for the district boundaries. On October 8th, the City Council selected Plan Lime as Livermore’s election district map for Council Members. The City Council also decided the order of districts in future elections: Districts 3 and 4 will be on the ballot in 2020, and Districts 1 and 2 will be on the ballot in 2022. The Mayor will continue to be elected at large. On October 22, 2018, an ordinance was introduced to finalize these actions during the regular City Council Meeting, and on November 26, 2018, the ordinance was adopted at the regular City Council Meeting.
The final map was prepared following City Council direction to consider traditional redistricting criteria; to not consider incumbency as a factor; to consider precinct boundaries where those would not result in division of a census geography; to consider public testimony relating to communities of interest; including potential boundaries identified in the Council’s discussion (such as starting at First Street and Livermore Avenue as the starting point to divide into quadrants); and following natural geographic boundaries.
The City of Livermore has established a district elections webpage (http://www.cityoflivermore.net/districtelections) to provide information regarding the transition process. Residents may submit comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.