PLEASE TAKE OUR POLL TO PROVIDE YOUR INPUT ON DISTRICT ELECTIONS
We ask that you only take this survey if you are a current customer of the Sunnyslope Water District who is of voting age. All responses are anonymous and will be used to better understand how current customers feel about their past voting experience when choosing Sunnyslope Water board of director representatives.
TO TAKE THE SURVEY, CLICK HERE - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BYX8JBZ
Why is the voting system changing?
Like the vast majority of special districts and cities in California, Sunnyslope Water District has maintained at-large, open elections for its board members. When the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) passed by our State Legislature in 2001 it became easier for plaintiffs to legally challenge at-large voting systems in California, forcing government entities to switch to by-district elections. Under the CVRA, plaintiffs merely need to declare that racially polarized voting may exist to prevail in a lawsuit; they do not have to prove that minority populations are unable to elect their preferred candidates. As a result, on February 17, 2023 Sunnyslope received a demand letter from the Shenkman & Hughes law firm in Malibu alleging that Sunnyslope’s election system violates the CVRA because it dilutes the impact of Latino voters. While the overwhelming majority of special districts do not violate voting rights, to date no defendant has ever successfully litigated against a CVRA lawsuit due to the legislation’s relaxed burden of proof. Losing agencies must pay all legal and court fees of the plaintiffs, and previous settlements have reached into the millions of dollars for some cities. As a result, the vast majority of school, hospital, fire, airport, and water districts threatened with litigation have voluntarily shouldered the cost of changing their election system to avoid the much larger cost of legal defense and liability for attorney fees. While meant to protect civil rights, the CRVA has inadvertently created a kind of cottage industry with attorneys initiating CVRA claims and recovering fees via settlements before cases are heard in court. While efforts are being made to amend CVRA language, this does not help current litigants.
How is my vote changing?
With current at-large elections, all Sunnyslope customers can vote for as many candidates as there are vacant council seats. To institute by-district elections, Sunnyslope must divide its customer service area into five voting districts, one for each board member seat, and customers will only be able to vote for the candidate who lives in their electoral district. If nobody runs for election in a given voting section the Sunnyslope Board of Directors will appoint a representative. If current board members live in the same trustee area they will have to run against each other.
How will the change take place?
To fulfill CVRA requirements and protect Sunnyslope customers from shouldering potentially costly litigation, Sunnyslope is hiring a demographer to coordinate the election transition. Over the next year we will publish a draft map of proposed voting areas and hold a minimum of four public hearings, among other requirements. We need your input to make voting as equitable as possible. Establishing voting districts is challenging for small agencies like Sunnyslope Water which have a well-integrated population base. We need to know your concerns and preferences to ensure equitable voting boundaries. Please answer our short poll, and plan to attend our future public meetings, to be announced. If you have questions, please email us at email@example.com.