Time for Change

By-district voting is more representative, and almost always required by law, than at-large voting. Laguna Niguel? It’s time to change!

Laguna Niguel was served legal papers on ….  to switch from an “at-large” election process to a “by-district” election process that nearly all other South Orange County cities have adopted, even including Capistrano Unified School District. This is to be in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and passed in 2015 as part of AB182. It expands on the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and makes it easier for plaintiffs to prove at-large elections dilute the voting strength of a protected class. Truly though, this even goes beyond protected classes as it is all too common for buddies to get their neighbors on the council who all live in the same area and never interact with anyone outside their peer group.

In case you are unaware of the difference. In by-district elections, you only get to vote for one candidate, no matter how many seats are open. It is the candidate for the district you live in. In an at-large election, you vote for as many candidates as there are seats open, so if two seats are open, you vote for two candidates. The top two vote-getters, get the seats. 

Built for Like Minds

Under by-district voting, a group of like-minded individuals in the same neighborhood, or adjoining neighborhoods, can choose to be specifically represented by someone who shares their ideas and neighborhoods. Oftentimes, for example, the northern part of a city can have a totally different makeup from the southern part, and a city can end up with an overconcentration of representation from one area and not the other, especially if there is a difference in race, which is what happens with at-large voting and special interests with agendas.

When a lawsuit is filed to switch to by-district, the cities who fight it, routinely lose as judges tend to deem the at-large voting to violate California’s voting rights act.

Currently, the demand on Laguna Niguel to switch to by-district would only cost the city the attorney fees involved, if they acquiesce and choose to more fully represent their residents. Should they choose to fight it and continue to only represent their friends and family and not the residents overall, it will cost them millions, even if they were to win, which they likely won’t if history is a guide.

Fighting Change Wastes Taxpayer Funds

In 2021, the city of Santa Clara lost its appeal to switch back to at-large elections, after losing the case to maintain at-large elections. The cost at that point? $5 million. Santa Monica was also ordered by a judge to switch to by-district, with a special election to replace the current city council also ordered.

The cities of Modesto and Palmdale were required to go to by-district elections by the court, and Palmdale spent $4.7 million trying to avoid it.

Nearly 100 cities in California have adopted by-district voting. It’s fairer, makes sense, and is required in nearly all cases. Laguna Niguel needs to adopt it and stop worrying about maintaining their despotic dynasties. Their fight only costs you money. Millions of dollars that can be used in your city for things your residents want.

Community Editorial