KINGSBURG – The next time Kingsburg residents vote for a City Council member, it may be for a neighbor who lives closer to them than before.

The city has been threatened with legal action under the California Voting Rights Act and thus will start the process to change the way City Council members are elected.

The intent of the Voting Rights Act of 2001 is to increase minority representation and "address ongoing vote dilution and discrimination in voting as matters," the Act reads.

“By changing to a district-based electoral system pursuant to Elections Code section 10010, the city will avoid the extraordinary cost to defend against a CVRA lawsuit and the possibility of being required to pay prevailing plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees,” the resolution reads.

Currently, members are voted into office in an at-large election and serve four-year terms. That will change to district-based elections. City Council will discuss and most likely adopt a resolution at its Wednesday, Feb. 21, meeting to start the process.

The current Council consists of Mayor Michelle Roman, Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Blayney, and Council members Sherman Dix, Laura North and Staci Smith. Blayney, Roman and Smith’s terms end in November 2018. Dix and North’s terms end in November 2020. By law, however, the terms of sitting Council members cannot be cut short.

The city will host at least two public hearings over a period of no more than 30 days prior to drawing a draft map or maps of the proposed boundaries.

After maps are drawn, the city will publish and make at least one draft map available. If Council members are elected for staggered terms of office, the potential sequence of elections will also be published.

Council will then host two more hearings over a period of no more than 45 days for public input. The first version of a draft map shall be published at least seven days before consideration at a hearing. If there are revisions, the map will be made available for at least another seven days before being adopted.

A demographer will help the city create the districts. They’ll take demographic data and other information into consideration as districts are created. Once drawn, the map should divide Kingsburg into voting districts “consistent with the intent and purpose of the California Voting Rights Act and Federal Voting Rights Act,” the city’s resolution reads.

Here is a timeline showing the process in which Kingsburg will move to district-based elections:

  • Feb. 21: Resolution of intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections.
  • Feb. 22-March 7: Public outreach.
  • March 7: First public hearing.
  • March 21: Second public hearing. Set deadline for receipt of maps.
  • April 11: Publish draft maps and potential election sequence.
  • April 18: Third public hearing.
  • April 25: Publish amended maps and any maps received from public and potential election sequence.
  • May 2: Fourth public hearing. Introduce ordinance establishing district elections. Adopt boundaries and set sequence.
  • May 16: Fifth public hearing. Second reading of ordinance and vote to approve or defeat.
  • May 22: Day 90.
  • June 15: Effective date of ordinance establishing district elections.
  • Nov. 6: First election using new district system.

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