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California Voting Rights Act (CVRA)

 
 

 
 

The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA)
 
 
Background
 
1.    The members of the Yuba City Unified School District Board of Education have long been elected “at large,” meaning that every Board member is elected by the voters of the entire district.
 
2.    Under the California Voting Rights Act, “at large” election systems are subject to legal challenge if they interfere with the ability of a protected class or voters (typically racial or ethnic minorities) to:
               
                •    elect the board member of their choice; or
 
                •    substantially impact their ability to influence the outcome.
 
3.    There is a low threshold of proof that an “at large” system violates the law:
 
              •    Any history of “rationally polarized voting” in area occupied by the District, even in a non-board election, whether political office
                   or ballot measure.
 
              •    No proof of discriminatory intent is required.
 
4.    Municipalities and local agencies, including school districts, have increasingly been moving toward “by-district,” also called “trustee area,” elections in California and those who delay in doing so are increasing coming under scrutiny for potential voting rights inequities and lawsuits.
 
5.    Trustee areas are often viewed as more responsive to the interests of the public because they may allow an increased “voice” for subgroups of the overall population who are concentrated in certain areas of the jurisdiction and whose influence may have previously been diluted by a broader “at large” system.

District Staff Recommends Transition
 
1.    Because of this background, and after conferring in detail with district legal counsel, in the Spring of 2020, YCUSD staff developed recommendations and a procedural plan for the Board of Education to make the transition to trustee area elections.
 
2.    Based on the input from both legal counsel and a demographer, the District believed that such a transition to trustee areas, regardless of whether there was a history of racially polarized voting in the area, would serve to promote the effective participation of all citizens, including members of ethnic and racial groups, who might have historically faced obstacles in electing candidates of their choice to the Board of Education.
 
3.    Many Northern California school districts of similar size have recently faced litigation under the CVRA, and have moved to trustee areas, causing YCUSD to be an “outlier” at this point. 
 
4.    Making this transition now, within a reasonable timeline, particularly in time to implement the new system prior to the next election, can greatly reduce the potential risk of expensive litigation and attorney fees.

A Summary of the Process for Making the Transition to Trustee Areas
 
1.    Resolution Setting Forth the Board’s Intent to transition to the new by-trustee area system.
 
               •    After careful consideration of the above, on March 10, 2020, the Board of Education adopted a Resolution establishing
                    the Board’s intent to move to the new system, initiating the process, and authorizing staff to engage such services and
                    take such actions in preparation for future Board consideration that would allow a timely transition as provided by law.
 
2.    Covid-Related Delay and 2021 Census
 
               •    Following the adoption of the Resolution of Intent, COVID-19, school closures, and related matters, severely disrupted the
                    normal business of the School District, placing significant challenges on engaging the public in the redistricting process. 
 
               •    Emergency Orders of the Governor provided for remote Board meetings, which potentially limited effective public participation,
                    as well as delays in legal proceedings under the CVRA.
 
               •    The 2020 Census data necessary to update local election maps was delayed.  That Census data is now due to issue on
                    September 30, providing significant information allowing for the development of up-to-date voting districts regarding the
                    distribution of local populations.
 
               •    For all of the above reasons, the Board determined to delay its redistricting process and ultimately to implement a schedule
                    that would result in trustee areas being developed for the November 2022 election.
 
3.    Subsequent Board Hearings and Actions
 
               •    A series of four public hearings will be scheduled to allow public input and comment and provide extensive input, consideration
                    and informed revision of proposed maps.
 
               •    The public’s input may also be accessed through less formal means, such as discussions and presentations involving
                     community groups and stakeholders, and written submissions from interested groups and individuals.
 
               •    Input will include, in particular, where boundaries lines should be drawn to enhance participation and representation of voting
                    subgroups.
 
               •    Staff developed a Tentative Schedule that was presented to the Board and the public at the first public hearing on
                    September 14, 2021.  Based on the input received, both from the Board and the public, it was determined that a revised
                    schedule should be developed, allowing for more time and opportunity to educate and seek the input of the public at large and
                    various stakeholders throughout the district.  
 
               •    The County Board of Education (serving as the County Committee on School District Reorganization) must also approve the
                     proposed maps, before they are finalized and provided to the County Registrar of Voters.
 
 
Public Input - CVRA Voters Right Act

Public Input - CVRA Voters Right Act

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