What are district-based elections?2021-08-30T19:21:16+00:00

If the city proceeds with a district-based election system, the City would be divided into equally populated districts. A candidate must reside within an election district and is elected only by voters residing within that same election district.

What election system does the City currently use?2021-08-30T19:20:54+00:00

Currently, the City Council consists of five Council Members who are elected at-large. This means any eligible voter who lives in the City can run for office, and every voter may vote for all five of the City Council Member seats, regardless of where they live in the City. Annually, the City Council chooses one Council Member to serve as Mayor. Council Members serve four-year terms of office.

Why would Tustin move to District Elections?2021-08-30T19:20:40+00:00

In 2001, the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was passed to expand upon the Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) of 1965. The CVRA’s primary intent is to provide more protection for California minority groups who feel “at-large” elections dilute their voting rights. Additionally, under the CVRA, if someone has a complaint, they only need to prove that there is a case of “racially polarized voting,” and the city will be held in violation and liable. Racially polarized voting occurs when there is a difference between the choice of candidates preferred by voters in a protected class (or minority group) and the choice of candidates preferred by voters in the rest of the electorate. Additionally, the city will be held in violation in any form of discriminatory action against a protected class under the CVRA.

Many California cities that follow “at- large” election systems have avoided litigation by going outside of court to settle claims and switch to district-based elections. Due to the nature of CVRA, if a plaintiff wins, they can be granted all reasonable attorney fees and expert witness fees. Because of CVRA, many cities have had to pay large amounts of money for these claims. If a city were to win its lawsuit, it would not recoup the fees unless the case can be proven frivolous. While many cities have tried to challenge CVRA claims, none yet have been successful.

On September 28, 2016, the State legislature passed AB 350, which amended the CVRA to provide that if a city decides to transition to district-based elections, they are granted a “safe harbor” from CVRA litigation. On June 23, 2020, the City of Tustin received a letter from the Mexican American Legal Defence and Education Fund (MALDEF). The letter asserted that Tustin’s “at-large” election system violates the CVRA. Additionally, MALDEF threatened legal action if the City of Tustin decided not to proceed to district-based elections.

Under the AB 350 Law, the city of Tustin had 45 days to decide if they wanted to move to district elections subject to the safe harbor. Once the 45 days are up, if a city chooses to move towards district elections, there will be a 90 day period where no plaintiff is allowed to file a legal action under CVRA. Once a city goes through with this process under AB 350, they can only be liable for up to $30,000 if a plaintiff can show that they incurred these costs employing demographic services and other work to support their letter asserting a violation of the CVRA.

Given Tustin’s circumstances as of August 3, 2021 the City has decided to move forward with the processes outlined by the state for creating district-based elections subject to the 90-day based “safe harbor” period.

Why does districting matter to me?2021-08-30T19:20:44+00:00

The potential transition to district elections would require a districting process. Districting determines which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into a district for purposes of electing a Council Member. The City Council will seek input in selecting the first district-based election map. You have an opportunity to share with the City Council how you think district boundaries should be drawn to best represent your community either during the public hearings or by submitting comments to drawtustin@tustinca.org.

What criteria will our City Council use when drawing district lines?2021-08-30T19:20:21+00:00
  1. Federal Laws
    • Equal Population (based on total population of residents as determined by the most recent Federal decennial Census and adjusted by the State to reassign incarcerated persons to the last known place of residence)
    • Federal Voting Rights Act
    • No Racial Gerrymandering
  2. California Criteria for Cities (to the extent practicable and in the following order of priority)
    • Geographically contiguous (areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous.  Areas that are separated by water and not connected by a bridge, tunnel, or ferry service are not contiguous.
    • Undivided neighborhoods and “communities of interest” (Socio-economic geographic areas that should be kept together for purposes of its effective and fair representation)
    • Easily identifiable boundaries
    • Compact (Do not bypass one group of people to get to a more distant group of people)
    • Prohibited: “Shall not favor or discriminate against a political party.”
  3. Other Traditional Districting Principles
    • Respect voters’ choices / continuity in office
    • Future population growth
What are Communities of Interest?2021-08-30T19:20:00+00:00

A community of interest is a “contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”

Below are useful excerpts from the Local Government Redistricting Toolkit by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (2020).

Communities of interest are the overlapping sets of neighborhoods, networks, and groups that share interests, views, cultures, histories, languages, and values and whose boundaries can be identified on a map.

The following elements help define communities of interest:

  • shared interests in schools, housing, community safety, transit, health conditions, land use, environmental conditions, and/or other issues;
  • common social and civic networks, including churches, mosques, temples, homeowner associations, and community centers, and shared use of community spaces, like parks and shopping centers;
  • racial and ethnic compositions, cultural identities, and households that predominantly speak a language other than English;
  • similar socio-economic status, including but not limited to income, home-ownership, and education levels;
  • shared political boundary lines from other jurisdictions, such as school districts, community college districts, and water districts.
How can I get involved?2021-08-30T19:42:31+00:00

Share your specific thoughts, attend an upcoming workshop, or eventually provide feedback on draft maps to get involved!

At the educational workshops, you can learn about the process of potentially forming City Council districts.

At the hearings, you can:

  • Share your story
  • Define your neighborhood or community of interest
  • Explain why districting is relevant to your community
  • Share your opinions of the draft maps
  • Talk to your neighbors and local organizations
What do the acronyms and categories mean on the demographic sheets?2021-08-30T19:20:07+00:00

Common acronyms demographic categories:

  • NH: Non-Hispanic
  • VAP: Voting age population
  • CVAP: Citizen Voting Age Population
  • CVRA: California Voting Rights Act
  • FAIR MAPS Act: Fair And Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions
  • NDC: National Demographics Corporation (the firm hired to produce the maps and provide demographic data)
Where can I learn more about districting?2021-08-30T19:20:12+00:00
Will there be “rank choice” or “rank-and-add” voting in the by-district elections?2021-08-31T22:23:26+00:00

Not at this time. Tustin is a general law city, not a charter law city, and California legislation (SB 212) that could have allowed rank choice voting in general law cities was vetoed by the Governor in 2019. As a result, alternative voting methods like rank choice and rank-and-add are not currently available to Tustin or other general law cities in California.

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