Poster Paper: Changes in Election Processes in California Cities

Friday, March 9, 2018
Burkle Lobby, First Floor (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Shayla Wilson, Cherry Yip, Emma Rees and Edgar Garcia, University of California, Irvine

Recently, California cities have been facing lawsuits and are consequently forced to transition from at-large to municipal-based district elections. These challenges are bolstered by the California Voting Rights Act (2001) which lowers the standards for legal action in cities that allegedly “impair the ability of a protected class” to elect candidates of their choice[1]. Since the law passed, more than 30 California cities have switched to district elections. Historically, at-large elections were intended to hold city officials accountable to all voters in a municipality, but it has been demonstrated that this system has marginalized many voters due in part to the cost of campaigning and voter turnout. The shift of the electoral process to district elections is intended to increase civic involvement and representation, but there are fears of officials prioritizing their districts and spreading resources too thin. This has become a critical concern across cities in California that still elect officials with an at-large election process. Utilizing pre- and post-transition data from cities that have switched from at-large to municipal-based district elections, we will evaluate the impact of this shift on outcomes such as political representation, voter turnout, and the allocation of city resources. It is important to understand how the transition to municipal district-based elections will impact cities both positively and adversely so that we can continue to address the needs of citizens as the demographics in California continue to change.

[1] Assembly Member Alejo, Bonta, Hernandez, AB 182: California Voting Rights Act of 2001