January 4, 2009

Changing the Face of California Politics

ROBERT RUBIN, an attorney with the San Francisco-based Lawyers' Commitee for Civil Rights, said about a Madera Unified School District court case, "I think what we're looking at is a quiet revolution. I think this will sort of usher in the transfer of power from the Anglo community to the Latino community...with fair and equitable voting procedures."

Mr. Rubin was referring to a ruling in September by Madera County Superior Court Judge James E. Oakley, who invalidated, in advance, the results of the November school board election. Oakley said Madera's at-large voting system in which all voters in the district cast ballots for all board members rather than for a candidate representing their section of town, violated the Voting Rights Act.

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It's a quiet revolution that could change the
face of California politics...
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Relying on the remedy suggested by the law, he called for the district to be divided into seven trustee areas, with candidates to run in each.

Now, other jurisdictions are paying heed In the aftermath of Oakley's order, the Madera City Council decided to switch to district elections. And in Fresno County, where 28 of 32 school boards use at-large elections, all 28 decided to follow Madera's lead and switch to districtions elections. Similiar discussions are taking place in other counties.

This electoral change could transform the face of California politics.

The court's decision in this case has already caused other school districts to change their electoral system. It will be interesting to see if the movment spreads to larger cities and even counties (In another post I wrote about the possibility of this same approach - district elections for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors).

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