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Carlsbad Will Change From Citywide To District Elections

Photo credit: City of Carlsbad

Carlsbad city council meeting May 9th 2017

The Carlsbad City Council becomes the third North County city council to vote this year to move to district elections for city council members. The council voted Tuesday night to make the change.

The move from at-large, city-wide elections to district elections comes as the result of a legal threat from a Malibu-based attorney, Kevin Shenkman, who threatened to sue the city if it did not comply with the California Voting Rights Act.

The California Voting Rights Act, signed into law in 2002, says at-large elections dilute the minority vote. The cities of Palmdale and Modesto tried to fight the change in court, and each forfeited more than $3 million of public money in fines and legal fees.

The Vista and Oceanside city councils recently voted to change to district elections, after receiving letters from Shenkman. Their first district elections will be in 2018. Escondido and San Marcos have also made the change to district elections, as a result of a legal ultimatum under the California Voting Rights Act.

Chula Vista and El Cajon have also changed to district elections of city council members, as a result of citywide votes.

The city of San Diego, with a population of 1.3 million, has had district elections for city council members since 1988.

The Carlsbad vote was three to two.

Councilman Mark Packard and Mayor Matt Hall voted “no, ” saying they felt the need to stand and fight what they called “a bad law.”

Councilmembers Keith Blackburn, Michael Schumacher and Corie Schumacher voted “yes.” All three cited the potential loss of taxpayer dollars to fight a suit that no other city has won. They also cited the threat the city would lose control of the process of determining council district boundaries if it lost the case in court.

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