By: Chris Orlando, San Marcos City Council
Last month, the San Marcos City approved a major change to the way council members are elected. Beginning with the November 2018 elections, council members will now be elected on a district basis rather than through a citywide election.
The change was prompted by a threatened lawsuit from Malibu-based law firm, alleging that the City’s current electoral process was not representative. While the Council expressed significant reservations about district-based elections, fighting the allegations would have been an expensive, and potentially fruitless, effort. So, the Council initiated a process to consider the change to the City’s Election code in July and approved a new district-based election process in October.
More than twenty-three other cities, schools districts and jurisdictions around the state have faced similar lawsuits, which are brought under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA). None has successfully fought this type of litigation and attorney fees in these cases have been as much as $4.5 million.
Rather than contesting the process and subjecting the City to significant risk, litigation costs and several years of uncertainty, the Council initiated a process to consider and enact the change. After a series of public hearings over the last several months, which included testimony by a demographer and election law expert, the Council unanimously approved the new district election process as well as a map of the new districts.
The new election process creates four council districts of approximately 8,000 voters.
- District 1 will include the Richmar area and proceed west to Poinsettia Avenue, east to Woodland Parkway, north to Borden Road and South to the 78 Freeway.
- San Elijo Hills will be included in District 2, along with Old Creek Ranch, Discovery Hills, Rancho Dorado and the adjoining neighborhoods.
- District 3 will include the area around Cal State San Marcos, the Creek District, the Civic Center area, and extends east to the Nordahl Marketplace, west to Rancho Santa Fe Road and an area north to the 78 freeway.
- District 4 will include Sante Fe Hills, Palomar College and neighborhoods north of Borden Road and Santa Fe Road to the west.
The district elections will be phased in beginning November 2018, when representatives from Council Districts 1 and 2 will be elected. Two years later, in 2020, council members from District 3 and 4 will be on the ballot. To be elected, a candidate must live within the boundary of the individual district that they seek to represent. The current City council members, and those elected in the November 8 election, will all complete their four-year terms. They will then be eligible to run for re-election in the district in which they live, unless they are term-limited. (The City’s election code limits Council members and the Mayor to three, four-year terms.)
This change to district-based Council elections does not affect the way the mayor is elected. The mayor will continue to be elected citywide. The next mayoral election will be in 2018, when the current Mayor, Jim Desmond, completes his third and final four-year term.
More information about the districting process and an interactive of the new districts are posted on the City’s website: www.san-marcos.net/your-government/city-council/districting.