The City of Livermore had an at-large election system. Each of the City’s four Council Members and the Mayor were elected by the entire City. Council Members were elected for a four-year term, while the Mayor was elected for a two-year term. In 1978, a ballot initiative was passed, calling for the Mayor to be directly elected by the voters for a two-year term, rather than selected by the City Council.
The City received a letter from the Shenkman & Hughes law firm on May 29, 2018 alleging “racially polarized voting” in Livermore and threatening litigation if the City declines to voluntarily convert to district-based elections. “Racially polarized voting” means voting in which there is a difference in the choice of candidates or other electoral choices that are preferred by voters of a protected class, and in the choice of candidates and electoral choices that are preferred by voters in the rest of the electorate.1
Specifically, the letter asserts that the City’s at-large electoral system dilutes the ability of Latinos, a protected class, to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Livermore’s council elections, and that, as a result, Livermore’s at-large election system violated the CVRA.
The City Council met in closed session on June 11 and June 25, 2018 to consider the threatened CVRA litigation and, after weighing the legal implications and potential costs of such litigation, directed staff to move forward with drafting the resolution of intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections in order to take advantage of the “safe harbor” allowances under Elections Code Section 10010. As discussed in more detail below, the “safe harbor” allowances require the City to hold at least four public hearings within the allotted time frame to give the community an opportunity to weigh in on the composition of the districts and provide input regarding the content of the draft maps and proposed sequence of elections.
On July 9, 2018, the Livermore City Council initiated the process to transition from an at-large to district-based election system to comply with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. The City of Livermore currently uses an at-large election system that allows all voters in the City to elect council members and the mayor. In a district-based election system, the City is physically divided into separate council member districts, and the voters that live within each district get to elect a candidate from that district. The number and make-up of the council member voting districts will be decided by the Livermore City Council after a series of public hearings held over the next few months. The Mayor will continue to be elected at-large.
The first two public hearings gave the Livermore community an opportunity to weigh in on the composition of the districts. The two subsequent public hearings will give the community an opportunity to provide input on the draft maps for the district boundaries. At the final public hearing, the City Council will vote to consider an ordinance establishing the districts and shifting to a district-based election system that will start with the 2020 election.
1 Elections Code section 14026(e)
2 Codified as Elections Code section 10010 (effective January 1, 2017)
All public hearings were held at Livermore City Hall, 1052 S. Livermore Avenue, in the Council Chambers, at 7:00 pm, as part of regularly-scheduled Council meetings.
|July 9, 2018
||Resolution of Intention:
City Council adopts Resolution declaring its Intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections.
|July 23, 2018
||1st Public Hearing
|August 13, 2018
||2nd Public Hearing
|September 10, 2018
||3rd Public Hearing
|October 8, 2018
||4th Public Hearing
|October 22, 2018
||5th Public Hearing and Introduction of an Ordinance of the City of Livermore to transition from at-large to district-based elections
|November 26, 2018
||Second reading and adoption of the ordinance (Ordinance 2078).
|December 26, 2018
||Effective date of ordinance establishing district elections