Districting FAQ

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How many people are on the City Council?

The City Council currently consists of five City Council Members. This will not change. The only change is that the five City Council Members would be elected from five separate districts, instead of citywide as they were previously.

 What is the Districting Process?

The City Council is planning a series of public hearings to receive input from the public on where to draw Council district lines. In particular, the Council wants the community’s input on defining neighborhoods and other "communities of interest" that should be used to guide the line-drawing. Once draft plans from the public and from the City’s demographic consultants are posted, the Council also hopes to hear from the public about which map(s) work best for the city, and how the maps should be improved.

 What is the role of the demographer?

The demographic consultant will provide and maintain census and other relevant data, including analysis of the City’s population. National Demographic Corporation (NDC) will also provide tools for the public to create and comment on district maps and communities of interest, assist the public in learning about the districting process, attend community meetings, all advisory meetings and City Council meetings, as well as present the final draft map(s) to the City Council based on community input.

 What role do community members have in this decision?

Everyone has an important role in drawing the Council district map that will shape the City’s future. The demographer and City staff will provide information to community members and answer questions. The City Council will listen to community comments and ideas, and include them in its decision-making process.

 How will the final decision be made?

The City Council will hold public hearings and select a map of Council districts. On February 12, 2019 the Council will decide whether to make the change to by-district elections. (City’s with populations under 100,000 may transition to by-district elections by ordinance rather than by ballot measure.)

What’s the difference between “at large” elections and “district” elections?

Claremont currently has an at-large election system, where voters of the entire District elect all members of the City Council. “By-district” divides the jurisdiction into geographic districts. Voters in each district area choose their representative, who must also live in that district area.

What are by-district elections?

A by-district or by-district election process means voters within a designated electoral district elect one representative, who must also reside in and be a registered voter of that district.

How will creating voting districts affect me?

If approved, every four years registered voters in Claremont will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate for City Council that lives in their district area. Registered voters will not be able to vote for Council candidates from areas in which they do not reside.

What are the Federal and California Voting Rights Acts?

The Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) was adopted in 1965 and is intended to protect the rights of all citizens to participate in the voting process. The Citizens Voting Rights Act or CVRA was passed in the California State Legislature in 2001, based on the Legislature’s belief that minorities and other members of protected classes were being denied the opportunity to have representation of their choosing at the local level because of a number of issues associated with at-large elections. Upon a finding of a violation of the CVRA, the act requires that “the court shall implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections that are tailored to remedy the violation.” As such, the default remedy and the clearly identified remedy by the Legislature is district-based elections.

What is the CVRA?

The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) prohibits the use of any election system “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.”  Jurisdictions can be sued if they elect their governing body using an at-large, from-districts, or mixed election system. If the court finds against a jurisdiction, the jurisdiction must change its election system and pay the plaintiff’s attorneys, experts, and other expenses.

How is the CVRA different from the FVRA?

The CVRA was adopted in 2002, and is based upon the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“FVRA”) with some important differences that make at-large election systems much more susceptible to legal challenges.  For a plaintiff to be successful in a claim of violation under the FVRA relating to at-large elections, the plaintiff must show that: 1) a minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to form a majority of the eligible voters in a single-member district; 2) there is racially-polarized voting; and 3) there is “white bloc voting” (the term used by the courts reviewing such cases) sufficient usually to prevent minority voters from electing candidates of their choice. If a plaintiff proves these three elements, then the federal court will consider whether, under the “totality of circumstances,” the votes of minority voters are diluted by the at-large election system.

The CVRA removes two of these factors. It eliminates what is known as the “geographically compact” FVRA precondition (e.g., can a majority-minority district be drawn) as well as the “totality of the circumstances” or “reasonableness” test.  Because the CVRA eliminates some of the elements that a plaintiff must prove, defending a lawsuit brought pursuant to the CVRA is more difficult to defend against than a claim under the FVRA.  As a result of the lower threshold for proving a claim under the CVRA, many jurisdictions have voluntarily switched to district-based election systems instead of facing litigation.

Why haven’t cities prevailed in challenging these allegations?

The threshold to establish liability under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is considered low. The Federal Voting Rights Act requires four conditions to be met to prove a city is not in compliance. The CVRA only has two condition requirements.

How have other cities responded to the threat of litigation under the Citizens Voting Rights Act (CVRA)?

Nearly every other city has changed its election method, voluntarily or by court order. Agencies that have attempted to defend their at-large election systems have incurred significant legal costs. Here are a few examples of the legal costs that other cities paid defending their at-large systems: Palmdale $4.7 million, Modesto $3 million, Anaheim $1.1 million, Santa Barbara $600,000, and West Covina $220,000.

 What criteria are used to create election districts?

Many factors may be considered, but population equality is the most important. Other factors include:

  • Communities of interest
  • Be compact
  • Be contiguous
  • Have visible (natural and man-made) boundaries
  • Include respect for past voter selections
  • Plan for future growth

 What are communities of interest?

A community of interest is a neighborhood or community that would benefit from being in the same district because of shared interest, view or characteristics. Possible community features or boundary definitions include:

  • School attendance areas
  • Natural neighborhood dividing lines such as roads, hills or highways
  • Areas around parks and other landmarks
  • City borders
  • Common issues, neighborhood activities or legislative/election concerns
  • Shared demographic characteristics, such as:
  • Similar levels of income, education or linguistic isolation;
  • Ancestry (not race or ethnicity)
  • Languages spoken at home
  • Percentage of immigrants
  • Single-family and multifamily housing units

If election districts are created, who decides the boundaries?

A professional demographer is hired by the City to create proposed district boundaries, with suggestions and feedback from residents. Residents will be able to provide input on boundaries and suggested criteria for creating boundaries. The districting process will be transparent and accessible to all residents. Ultimately, the Council adopts an ordinance establishing district boundaries.

Where can I learn more about districting, "Communities of Interest," and other parts of this process?

The Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Asian American Legal Center co-wrote "The Impact of Redistricting on Your Community."

The Brennan Center for Justice has two useful publications regarding districting and redistricting available at the following links:

- Redistricting 101

- A Citzen's Guide to Redistricting

The California Independent Redstricting Commission put together this collection of "Frequently Asked Questions about Redistricting."

What does Census Block mean?
The online map making tool divides the City into Census blocks, the smallest unit of measurement used by the Census. Think of a census block as being roughly equivalent to a city block (although the census blocks are larger in less populated areas). It’s best not to split census blocks when creating your maps.

What do the acronyms and categories mean on the demographic sheets?
These are standard categories included in the Census. Not all of the categories are relevant for creating district maps. Acronyms include:
NH: Non-Hispanic
VAP: Voting age population
CVAP: Citizen Voting Age Population
CVRA: California Voting Rights Act
NDC: National Demographics Corporation (the firm hired by the city to create the maps)