Why is the voting process changing?
The City of West Covina has entered into a settlement agreement that changes the way voters choose their leadership from the City's current at-large elections to geographically defined districts elections. The objective of the District Election Mapping process is to ensure compliance with the California Voting Rights Act and ensure minority votes are not diluted. The City will hold at least four public hearings and two rounds of community meetings during the process.
What is the Voting Rights Act and why is it important?
The Voting Rights Act is federal legislation adopted in the 1960s protecting the rights of all citizens to participate in the voting process. This legislation has provisions ensuring underrepresented groups have equal opportunities for voting and representation. The California Voting Rights Act has additional provisions with the purpose of ensuring equal access to voting and representation. All City activities used to create these newly formed voting districts will follow and comply with both the spirit and letter of the law, including those laid out by both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts.
What are district-based elections?
Each of the newly developed Council districts will be represented by a single Council Member living within that district chosen by the voters of that district. Therefore, City elections will provide a new opportunity for geographic and demographic representation based on each district’s constituents.
Why by-district voting rather than “at-large” voting?
District elections allow City Council representation across defined geographic sections of the City, providing opportunities for representation in communities that may not always have had a Council Member from their neighborhood. Those communities and areas which believe they have issues unique to them may choose their own representation within those district boundaries.
What will be the process for creating voting districts?
The process will have both a technical and community input component completed in tandem to define and create the best recommendation for creating the district boundaries. The technical process requires the formation of nearly equal districts based on population (ideally within 5 percent from smallest to largest). However, other factors also play a major role including: topography, geography, cohesiveness, contiguity, compactness, integrity of territory, communities of interest and significant and sensitive land uses.
Community participation is vital to ensure proper formation of the districts. An assortment of materials, meetings and other social media communication tools will be utilized to inform and engage the public throughout the technical process. This will include a minimum of two rounds of public workshops as well as an opportunity for interested individuals to prepare their own suggested maps and submit them directly to National Demographics Corporation (the demographer hired to assist the City with this process) to provide direct input on boundary lines.
Who will approve the final districts?
The consultant team hired to complete the technical study, National Demographics Corporation, will provide a written report that City staff will use to provide the City Council with a recommendation, following community meetings, public input and public hearings. Ultimately, City Council will determine which map best reflects the City’s neighborhoods.
What is a community of interest?
A community of interest is any distinctive area within the City that has a definable group of people, unique geography or some other distinguishable feature or characteristic that it would be undesirable to divide in the creation of voting districts. Some of these may already be clearly established and others may be defined as a result of this process. This distinction requires strong community input to ensure communities of interest are protected in this process. For example, the Galster Wilderness Park is a definable area that the community may believe should not be split by a district boundary.
When will these new districts take effect?
The new voting districts will immediately take effect. However, the first election to be held using these newly formed districts would occur in November 2018.
How many Council Members will be up for election in 2018?
The terms of Mayor Corey Warshaw, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Spence, and Council Member James Toma expire in December 2018. Thus, three council seats in total will be voted for in the November 2018 election.
Will these three incumbents be able to run for re-election in November 2018?
The answer depends on which three out of five district seats are chosen to be included in the November 2018 election. If any of the current incumbents reside in a district which will have its seat filled in 2018, they may run for election for that district seat. If any do not reside in a district with a seat being filled, they will have to defer running until the district in which they reside will have its seat up for election.
Can the first three districts be those in which an incumbent whose term ends in 2018 resides?
Possibly, but not certainly. The settlement agreement provides that the addresses of incumbents or possible candidates cannot be taken into account in drawing the district boundary lines. In addition, the settlement agreement provides that at least one of the three districts whose council seat will be filled in 2018 shall be selected from the two most “under-represented” districts in the past ten years. Once the district lines are drawn, the three district seats to be filled in 2018 will be selected by the City Council.
Could one of the district seats up in 2018 be in a district where an incumbent resides and whose term does not end until 2020?
Yes. Any of the five districts may have more than one incumbent residing within its boundaries. Because the mapping process may not take incumbency into account, a particular district could have no incumbents, one incumbent, or more than one incumbent. So if one of the districts has a 2018 incumbent and also a 2020 incumbent, it could be selected as one of the three for the 2018 elections.
What happens to the 2020 incumbent if he lives in a district included in the 2018 elections?
It depends. The 2020 incumbent does not have to run in 2018 to retain his current at-large seat. He could run from a “safe seat” in 2018. If he lost in 2018 to another candidate, he would still be able to complete his at-large term (to 2020). If he won the district seat in 2018, his original 2020 seat would have a vacancy to be filled.
How can we have two council members living in the same district?
This could only happen until the 2020 election. Once the district boundary map is approved, you may have two or more “at-large” council members residing within a single district. However, the districts do not actually take effect until the 2018 election when three district seats are filled. The two remaining council seats will continue to be “at large” until the remaining two district seats are filled in the 2020 election. Once council members have been sworn in after the 2020 election, there will only be one council member residing in each district. (When district lines are adjusted after each census, it is possible that district lines will move such that the holder of a district seat does not live in the “new” boundaries of his or her district. This does not change the fact that he or she represents that district.)
It is permissible to have more than one Council Member residing within the boundaries of a district as long as that district has no more than one by-district representative and the other representative(s) residing in that district serve as at-large City Council Members.
So, if Council Member “A” currently resides in District 1 but holds an at-large seat with a term expiring in 2020, and the District 1 seat goes before voters in 2018, Council Member “A” could choose to run for the district seat.
If Council Member “A” lost the 2018 district seat election, then he would continue to serve as an at-large representative through 2020. Both the winner of the District 1 election and Council Member “A” would reside in District 1. The District 1 representative would represent the district through 2022 and Council Member “A” would represent the City at-large through 2020. After 2020, the district representative would be the only current City Council Member residing in that district.
If Council Member “A” won the district seat election for District 1, he would assume the district seat which expires in 2022 and vacate his at-large seat. City Council would fill the vacancy for the remainder of the at-large term expiring in 2020 by appointment or calling a special election. After 2020, the district representative would be the only current Council Member residing in that district.
If a vacancy occurs in an at-large seat, who can be appointed or elected to fill that seat?
The two “at-large” seats expiring in 2020 will continue to be at-large until 2020. Thus, under current legal interpretation, any eligible voter residing anywhere in the City could be appointed or elected to fill any such vacancy. If the person who fills the vacancy resides in a district which has a district representative elected in 2018, he or she would not be eligible to run for re-election in 2020.
How will creating voting districts affect me?
Beginning in 2018, residents in the City of West Covina will have the opportunity to vote for candidates who run in the district in which they live. Once elected, these City Council Members will provide direct representation of the unique population, issues and challenges found within each of the districts.
Why is my participation important?
This process, and the resulting decisions, are critical to the leadership and future of West Covina. It is important that these voting district boundaries clearly and accurately represent the varying geographic areas and unique demographic groups found within our community. Your participation will help bring clarity to the process and help better understand the issues important to you as we look at volumes of data to help create balanced and representative districts.
How will my input be used?
Your input will help inform the technical process which will be based on a collection of data and analytics. We will ask you to share with us what is important to you, where you think the boundaries should go to protect communities of interest and other clarifying questions that will help us in the development of voting district recommendations.
Where can I learn more about the process and get additional information including scheduled public meetings?
For this process, the City has set up a host of communication tools and ways for the public to receive information and provide input. The City has established a project webpage at www.westcovina.org/districts. All meeting information and project materials will be posted on the website for your review. You can also e-mail us with a comment or question at, email@example.com. You may access the Public Participation Kits on our website and send your proposed map to the City or to the demographers at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, please call 626-939-8401.