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KINGSBURG – If you live in the newly formed District 5 of Kingsburg’s new election system, you may want to consider running for City Council.

This zone of town is one of five formed to meet California Voting Rights Act laws as the city changes its election procedures.

The decision to move ahead with the map came during the May 2 City Council meeting.

National Demographics Corporation President Douglas Johnson explained the pros and cons of the final three maps under consideration and said the green map met more of the legal requirements than the others. This map keeps Latino voters together, keeps the number of people in each district relatively the same and forms districts around major streets or neighborhoods of town.

“We have to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act which means looking at neighborhoods with protected classes, which are primarily Latinos. We have to not divide Latino neighborhoods in a way that dilutes their voting strength,” Johnson said.

Mayor Michelle Roman said one map was declined since it divided up District  1 around a large island of county property in the north part of town.

“We said we didn’t like the tan one because it was too fragmented,” Roman said.

Council also had to decide which districts would be up for election this year so as to not have all five seats being elected at once.

Roman’s, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Blayney’s and Councilwoman Staci Smith’s seats were already coming up for election this November. Council members Laura North and Sherman Dix’s seats will be decided in 2020.

Council decided to have Districts 1, 4 and 5’s elections this November and District’s 2 and 3 in 2020. The new election system requires that council members live in the district they represent. Thus, Roman represents District 4. Blayney and Smith both live in District 1 and will run against each other, unless one decides not to run.

No current council member lives in District 5 located south of Orange Street, east of Rafer Johnson Drive, west of Freeway 99 and north of Clarkson Avenue.

Candidates must reside in their district and only voters in that district vote for them. 

Council members struggled in deciding which map to move forward with.

“One thing that’s been great on our City Council is we all get along really well. We’d like to make this as cohesive as possible. The ideal is to never have council members run against each other but that’s difficult to do,” Roman said about deciding which district boundaries to approve. Other potential district maps would have seen Blayney having to run against other council members as well since they reside relatively close to each other.

Johnson said he realized making the change is tricky, but Kingsburg isn’t the only city faced with the decision.

“You’re certainly not alone in making this change. This is happening all over the state. It started in the Central Valley, but it’s now spread all over,” Johnson said. “Previously only 29 California cities used district elections. Since 2006, 90 more cities now do so.”

The district map will need to be updated after the 2020 Census is taken, Johnson said. Since Kingsburg’s population won’t change drastically, it will be more a matter of tweaking the district lines to balance the population.

“It’s all relative. It isn’t just did one district grow, it’s about if one district grew faster than the others? If they all grow evenly, then your Census numbers are new, but they’re all balanced. As you annex territory and if the new growth in District 2 has accelerated faster, then they’ll have to give up population in 2020.”

The final reading of this new voting ordinance will be formally approved at the May 16 meeting.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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