Turlockers now have their first glimpse at the potential future of voting in Turlock, as the City of Turlock has released maps of potential voting districts for future elections.
The City of Turlock is considering a switch to district-based voting from the current at-large system due to the threat of multi-million dollar litigation. As the city currently has a large Latino population but has not elected any Latino councilmembers, the city could be considered in violation of the 2002 California Voting Rights Act.
Three draft maps have been released, each dividing the City of Turlock into a set of quadrants. Each district would be tasked with electing a councilmember to represent itself, while a mayor would continue to be elected at-large.
District elections are considered to be more fair than at-large elections when it comes to electing minority candidates. City-wide majorities are unable to out-vote smaller, geographically centered ethnic minorities, which might elect their own candidates if they had the chance.
Plan A would create the most compact voting districts, but splits some geographic areas; Downtown Turlock would be spread across two districts, for example. Plan B takes a more landmark-centric approach, keeping California State University, Stanislaus in the same district as nearby student housing and keeping Downtown Turlock within one district. Plan C is centered on Downtown Turlock, radiating out from the downtown core and giving each voting district a portion of downtown.
None of the draft plans were drawn with the intention of giving incumbent councilmembers their own districts. Each draft plan features at least one district where two councilmembers currently reside, and one district with no current representative.
The draft district boundary proposals were prepared by the City of Turlock's consultant, National Demographics Corporation.
The maps will be discussed at two special meetings of the Turlock City Council, to be held at 6 p.m. May 7 at the Turlock Public Safety Center, 244 N. Broadway, and 6 p.m. May 15 at the Pitman High School Cafeteria, 2525 W. Christoffersen Pkwy.
The meetings will discuss the shift to district elections and how the draft boundaries were drawn. Members of the public will be asked to provide input on the boundary proposals, which will shape the voting districts which will likely end up on the November ballot.
Those meetings will be agendized to allow for citizens to comment on any issue facing the community, not just district elections. City staff say the council is interested in hearing about critical issues such as roadways, public safety, and water needs.
Any change to the City of Turlock's councilmember elections will require a vote of the people, expected on the November ballot. The Turlock Unified School District adopted by-district voting in 2010, but was not required to hold a vote on the shift due to different laws which govern school districts as opposed to cities.
Should Turlockers vote down the November ballot measure, it is likely that district elections would still be forced onto the city by the courts. Voting down the measure could be taken as “proof” of racism, which would open the door for a potentially massive lawsuit.
For more information, visit www.ci.turlock.ca.us.