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District Elections

Background

On August 23, 2021, the City received a certified letter from Kevin Shenkman, an attorney based in Malibu, which alleged violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) (Elections Code §§14025-14032). The letter alleged that the City’s at-large election system has impaired the ability of Latinx voters to elect their preferred candidates and demanded that the City convert to district-based elections for choosing City Council members. The letter requested that the City inform Mr. Shenkman by October 8, 2021 whether the City would discuss a voluntary change to its current at-large election system.

The City of Petaluma currently uses an at-large election system in which all voters in the City have the opportunity to vote for candidates for all seven seats on the City Council. A “district-based” election is one in which the city is divided into separate districts, each with one Councilmember who resides in the district and is chosen by the voters that reside in that district. The CVRA generally requires jurisdictions with “at-large” elections to convert to “district-based” elections if racially-polarized voting is found to exist in the jurisdiction.  Racially-polarized voting exists where a protected minority group prefers an issue or candidate that differs from the preference of the majority.  At the October 4, 2021, City Council Regular Meeting, the City Council adopted Resolution No. 2021-164 N.C.S. declaring its intent to initiate procedures to consider transition from at-large to district-based elections.  On October 8, 2021, the City informed Mr. Shenkman of the adoption of Resolution 2021-164 N.C.S. and provided him a copy.

HOW WILL THE DISTRICTS BE FORMED?

The City of Petaluma will be working with the community to draft maps that meet the requirements of the law regarding districting while also reflecting our community in ways that support communities of interest.  This process requires input from you to better understand our community and where districts would make sense.  There will be three public hearings next year between January and April to review options, draft maps and to vote on a final district map by April of 2022.

WHAT IS A COMMUNITY OF INTEREST (COI)?

A Community of Interest is a connected population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single City Council district for purposes of its effective and fair representation as a potential voting bloc in current or future elections. Such groups include (but are not limited to) groups with cultural or historical bonds, shared economic interests, shared racial, ethnic or religious identities, neighborhoods, school districts, media markets, transportation districts, opportunity zones, business improvement districts, communities concerned about environmental hazards, or a shared vision of the future of a community.

HOW TO SUBMIT A COMMUNITY OF INTEREST (COI) FORM

1. Fill out the Community of Interest Form online:

2. Complete a printable community of interest form (HAGA CLIC AQUÍ para español) and return it by email to [email protected] or drop off/mail a hard copy to the Office of the City Clerk at 11 English Street, Petaluma, CA 94952.

Districting determines which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into a district for purposes of electing a City Council member. The City Council is seeking input on the district voting map for Petaluma. You have an opportunity to share with the City Council how you think district boundaries should be drawn to best represent your community.

The legally required criteria that apply to the creation of voting districts are as follows:

  • Each council district shall contain nearly equal population, with any deviations justified by other traditional redistricting criteria.
  • A districting plan shall be drawn in a manner that complies with the state and federal Constitutions, the Federal Voting Rights Act and state other applicable law, including the CVRA.
  • Each council district shall not be drawn with race as the predominant factor in violation of the principles established by the United States Supreme Court in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993).
  • Each council district shall be contiguous, meaning that there can be no islands or parts of the district that are not attached to the whole.

The City will reach out to local media to publicize the redistricting process. Also, we will make a good faith effort to notify community groups of various kinds about the redistricting process. All districting materials will be provided in English and Spanish, and live Spanish translation will be available for all public hearings. The City will notify the public about districting hearings, post maps online before adoption, and host this dedicated web page for all relevant information about the districting process.

Community input is needed! Petaluma is seeking community input to determine how to best map district-based election boundaries. Now is your chance to have your voice heard.

  • What would districts mean to you?
  • What would you consider to be your district within Petaluma?
  • What “communities of interest” or “neighborhoods” do you feel should remain intact?
    • Is there a park, school, major road or intersection nearby or within what you consider to be your district?
    • Does your neighborhood have shared concerns or is it within a particular development?
  • Should districts be drawn that have a broad range of different land uses?
  • Are there any locations of growth that Council should consider that you feel are important in how the boundaries are drawn?
  • Are there any natural or man-made geographical boundaries that are important for consideration?

The City Council will be holding hearings to receive public input on where district lines should be drawn. Ways to participate in the public hearings and to provide public comments are listed on the top of each meeting agenda, posted at: cityofpetaluma.org/meetings. The schedule for those hearings is listed below.

We will continue to provide timely updates on this web page throughout the district elections transition process. You can sign up to receive updates on our District Elections Updates email list.

To sign up to remain informed, to ask a question, to provide a comment, or to share your thoughts on the questions above, please fill out the form located on the bottom of this webpage.

The City is required to follow a prescribed schedule when considering a transition to district elections under threat of a lawsuit. The following schedule is subject to change and will be updated as needed.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

Activity

Date

Received Demand Letter8/23/2021
Adopt a Resolution of Intention, effective 10/7/2021, to transition from at-large to district-based elections10/04/2021
Launch Districting Website Page10/26/2021
Public Hearing #1 to gather input from communities of interest (no draft maps are drawn until these are complete)11/01/2021
Public Hearing #2 to gather input from communities of interest (no draft maps are drawn until these are complete)11/15/2021
Launch mapping tools on website for public to submit proposed maps12/10/2021
All Initial draft maps posted on website at least 7 days prior to public hearing01/24/2021
Public Hearing #3 to gather public input on draft maps and election sequencing01/31/2021
Changes to initial draft maps posted on website at least 7 days prior to public hearing02/07/2021
Public Hearing #4 to gather public input on draft maps and election sequencing02/14/2021
Final map posted on website at least 7 days prior to public hearing02/28/2022
Public Hearing #5 to introduce Ordinance establishing district-based elections03/07/2022
Adopt Ordinance establishing district-based elections03/21/2022
205 days prior to next regular election the Ordinance must be adopted (Elections Code §21602(a)(3))04/17/2022
First district-based election to be held11/08/2022

 

Mapping tools will be made available for members of the public to draw their own district maps and submit them for consideration.

Download a City Boundary Map to start thinking about how you would draw districts in Petaluma.

Initial draft maps will be posted seven days in advance of Public Hearing #3, and changes to any draft maps will be posted seven days in advance of subsequent hearings.

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Petaluma is reviewing it's election model to identify the most equitable way to represent our community.

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