District Elections Update
CITY OF SOLEDAD BY-DISTRICT ELECTION TRANSITION PROCESS
FIFTH PUBLIC MEETING- SEPTEMBER 6, 2023, 6:00 pm.
The City of Soledad currently elects its four city councilmembers and Mayor “at-large,” meaning each registered voter in the City has the opportunity to vote for all candidates seeking seats in the election. In February of 2022, the City received a letter challenging the City’s current election system and asserting that the City’s at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act. The letter contained a demand that the City transition to a by-district election system.
Under a by-district election system, the City would be separated into generally comparable geographic sections known as districts. With respect to councilmembers, voters within each district would vote only for candidates living within that specific district; voters would not vote for council candidates residing outside of the district in which the voter lives. The by-district election system allows the Council to decide whether the Mayor’s position would continue to be elected at-large or whether the Mayor’s position would be appointed from among elected councilmembers.
Soledad is not alone in the compelled transition circumstances described above. Entities throughout the State have received similar demand letters promoting a shift from at-large to district-based elections. While it is unclear if the City’s current voting system violates existing law, the cost of litigation to defend the City’s current at-large election system, coupled with the track record of other public agencies that have fought similar challenges, clearly poses a significant financial and legal risk to the City.
Although the Council initially rejected the transition demand, it subsequently reconsidered its position and on July 20, 2022, adopted Resolution No. 5833 which commenced the City’s effort to transition to by-district elections.
THE DISTRICTING PROCESS
The process for transition to by-district elections, as prescribed by California Elections Code Section 10010, involves the consideration and subsequent adoption of a map that divides the City into voting districts. There are a variety of Federal and State laws that apply to district formation. For instance, federal law requires that each district contain generally the same population numbers, while state laws impose specific requirements concerning the need for easily identifiable district boundaries, compactness, and minimal disruption to existing neighborhoods and communities of interest.
As an entity with a five-member council, by law, the City has two choices with respect to establishing districts. It may establish a four-district map, with each district electing one councilmember while the Mayor continues to be elected at-large. Alternatively, the City may choose a five-district map, where all members of the Council are elected by district. Under the five-district plan, the Council would thereafter approve a means by which the Mayor would be selected from among the five elected councilmembers. (Options include a rotation scheme where a different councilmember serves as mayor each year, appointment by seniority, appointment on the basis of votes received, or by an annual consideration of those councilmembers interested in holding the Mayor’s position.)
During the districting process, the City has received a total of five district maps prepared by its consultant National Demographics Corporation (“NDC”); three four-district maps and two five-district maps. Two additional maps, one each for the four and five-district scenarios, have been submitted by the public. All of the maps have been confirmed by NDC as meeting legal requirements under Federal and State law. Pursuant to Council direction on August 2nd, the publicly submitted five-district map was slighting modified by NDC and has been submitted for consideration as Map 501B.
To date, the City has taken the following actions in the process to transition to by-district elections:
The City Council has conducted a series of hearings to solicit public input and discuss the composition of districts. To date the hearing schedule has been:
October 25, 2022
December 14, 2022
February 15, 2023
August 2, 2023
The fifth and possibly final public hearing in this process is scheduled for September 6, 2023.
The City Council directed that NDC and Staff conduct a series of community workshops to educate the public on the districting process and to explain how to use mapping tools in the event a member of the public desired to prepare a map for council consideration. Workshops were held in both English and Spanish. The workshop schedule was as follows:
April 15, 2023
June 13, 2023
June 14, 2023
Advisory Committee Meetings
The City Council formed the City of Soledad Advisory Community Districting Committee to review draft maps and to make recommendations to the council on preferred maps. The Committee was comprised of citizens appointed by the City Council. At its June 14th meeting, the Committee provided the Council with a recommendation on both four- and five-district maps. The Advisory Committee meeting schedule was:
May 25, 2023
June 28, 2023
In addition to the above efforts, the City has posted information concerning the transition to by-district voting on an ongoing basis on its website, including copies of proposed maps and a link to mapping tools; posted various notices concerning the above-referenced efforts on the City’s Facebook page; and posted and disseminated information about the districting process at various locations.
At its meeting on August 2, 2023, the City Council selected a preferred four and five district map as the focus of consideration at the hearing to be held on September 6th- the Tan Map for the four-district plan and Map 501 for the five-district plan. The Council will be taking additional public comment on these two maps at the September 6th meeting, and possibly selecting the preferred map to be considered for formal Council approval. If the Council chooses a map on September 6th, they will also be introducing an ordinance that will implement the new by-district voting system. Final action on the ordinance would be taken at a public hearing on October 4th.
The Council encourages members of the public to attend the September 6th meeting to provide input on this important change to the City’s election process!
Proposed Boundary Map Options
for Discussion on August 2, 2023
New proposed maps that came out of the advisory committee are also now displayed below.
The redistricting process if still ongoing, but we’d like to keep older information here for historical purposes. Everything below this section should be considered archival information.
On February 1, 2022, the City received a letter challenging the City’s current election system and asserting that the City’s at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
The City of Soledad is not unique in this situation. Agencies throughout the State have received similar demand letters prompting a shift from at-large to district-based elections. While it is unclear if the City’s current system runs afoul of existing law, the cost of litigation to defend the at-large system, coupled with the track record of other public agencies that have fought similar challenges, poses a significant financial and legal risk to the City.
In light of the letter and to protect the City from financial and legal risks, Soledad has initiated action to transition its election process to district-based elections.
The City of Soledad, like hundreds of cities and school districts across the state, is making a change in how voters elect its City Councilmembers. Beginning in 2024, voters will vote for one City Council Member who lives in their district. This will replace the current system of at-large citywide elections in which voters have the ability to vote for all City Council Members.
We need your help to make this change and draw City Council districts!
One of our primary goals when drawing City Council districts is to draw lines that respect neighborhoods and communities of interest. So we want to know: What do you consider the boundaries of your neighborhood? Which areas should be in just one district for fair representation?
How to participate?
Share your specific thoughts, draw a map, or attend an upcoming meeting or workshop to get involved!
- Submit written testimony about your community, the districting process, or a specific map.
- Attend workshops and public hearings at which you can speak about the process or a specific map. Future meetings will be posted on this page. Agendas and meeting times can be found here: https://www.cityofsoledad.com/public-meetings
- An interactive map can be found here: MAP
At the hearings and workshops, we encourage members of the public to share one or more of the following items:
- Define your neighborhood or community of interest
- Explain why you believe districting is relevant to your community
- Get the tools you need to draw a map of one district or of all four districts
- Share your opinions of draft maps
- Talk to your neighbors and local organizations
- Ask questions or provide general comments about the districting process
Draw a Map:
The City of Soledad invites residents to participate in the creation of the City’s new council districts. The public mapping tools below can be used to draw and submit proposed district boundaries.
Residents have the option of drawing maps with 4 or 5 districts. The City Council will adopt either a 4-district map OR a 5-district map.
Maps submitted by the public will be presented to the City Council and posted online. If you would like credit for the map, please include your full name.
- Paper Map Kit – Quick and easy!
The PDF maps below can be printed and used to create hand-drawn maps. Available in English and Spanish.
Alternatively, we welcome the submission of any form of hand-drawn map that identifies street names.
- Online Mapping Tool – Powerful and data-rich!
DRA 2020 is a web app to create, view, analyze, and share district maps. NDC has created map templates for the public to use to draw proposed district boundaries.
How to Get Started:
- On the main website, register to create a user account.
- Once you have verified your account, you can log in and access the Soledad 4-District Template or the Soledad 5-District Template.
- Click the paintbrush icon to “Make an editable copy of this map.”
- Once you have drawn your map, please email a link to your map to firstname.lastname@example.org (otherwise the City will not know you have drawn it and will be unable to include it in their deliberations).
For more detailed instructions, view the video tutorial or download the Quick Start Guide below.
How to Submit Your Map
You can submit your map electronically, by mail, or in-person:
Mail/In-Person: Soledad City Hall, Attn: Community Engagement, 248 Main Street, Soledad, CA 93960
Last modified: September 13, 2023