SAN MARCOS — San Marcos is poised to become the second North County city to elect City Council members by district, after being threatened with a lawsuit alleging its at-large elections disenfranchise Latino voters.
Mayor Jim Desmond said Tuesday that nothing’s set in stone, but that the proposed change will be hammered out in public hearings in the coming weeks and months. He said it was “prudent” to move to district elections in the face of a potential lawsuit.“I think fighting this is a waste of taxpayer dollars because every city that has challenged this has lost,” Desmond said.The city was put on notice in December when Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman sent a letter saying San Marcos’ elections are “racially polarized” and violate the California Voting Rights Act. He noted that Latinos make up 37 percent of the city’s population, yet no Latinos have been elected to the council in about two decades.Shenkman has sued or threatened to sue other Southern California cities on behalf of Southwest Voter Registration Project, a Latino voting rights organization.Escondido moved to district elections in 2013 after another group threatened a similar lawsuit.“It is our belief that San Marcos’ at-large system dilutes the ability of minority residents — particularly Latinos, a protected class — to elect candidates of their choice, or otherwise influence the outcome of San Marcos’ council elections,” Shenkman said in the letter.
The City Council has been discussing the potential litigation for months in closed session and, on June 14, directed city staff to study possible boundaries for election districts and hire a demographer to create some maps.One option would create four council districts, with the mayor elected in an at-large vote; another option would create five council districts, each electing its own representative. The city has roughly 93,000 residents.At least one district must contain a heavy concentration of Latino voters and would mostly likely include the city’s Richmar neighborhood, straddling state Route 78 and moving west to city limits. READ MORE VIA Source: City poised to shake up voting system | SanDiegoUnionTribune.com