A unanimous vote by Turlock City Council Tuesday night will put a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot where Turlockers will decide whether to divide the City of Turlock into four equally-sized districts from which councilmembers would be elected.
Turlockers currently elect their councilmembers at-large; councilmembers can live in any part of the city, and Turlockers vote in each councilmember. Due to a threatened lawsuit, the City of Turlock is in the midst of switching to district elections, where residents in each district would vote for one councilmember to represent that district. The mayor would continue to be elected at-large.
On Tuesday, councilmembers moved forward with district elections and the measure will now be on the Nov. 4 ballot for Turlockers to vote on.
If approved by voters, the new districts would first take effect for two seats in the 2016 election, replacing the expiring terms of two at-large councilmembers. The remaining two seats would take effect in 2018.
If voters do not approve the district voting, the City of Turlock could face a multi-million dollar lawsuit. The city could be considered in violation of the 2002 California Voting Rights Act, as the city currently has a large Latino population but has not elected any Latino councilmembers.
The City of Modesto spent $1.7 million to fight a California Voting Rights Act case, which it ultimately lost. The city was then forced to pay another $3 million in plaintiff’s attorney fees. Even lawsuits that have been settled quickly have ended in six-figure settlements.
At the May 27 Turlock City Council meeting, councilmembers selected Plan A, which attempts to divide the City of Turlock into four evenly-sized voting districts. The four districts would be divided into northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.
“I think (Plan A) splits the city in fours pretty equally,” Turlock City Councilmember Forrest White said before the May 27 vote. “The city, I believe, is most equally represented.”
It will cost approximately $30,000 to place the item on the November ballot, according to Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden.