Chula Vista Districting – Does It Violate Voters Act?

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I found it interesting reading about the proposed ballot initiative in Chula Vista being backed by Councilmembers Pat Aguilar, Rudy Ramirez and Steve Castaneda. The most egregious abuse included in this districting idea is how it would be implemented in phases.

First off, Ramirez and Aguilar are proposing that one seat be affected beginning in 2014, which will be the seat Ramirez is finally vacating (thank the Lord). So, it makes sense that seat would change at that time.

What is odd, though, is the other seat up for election in ’14 would not be affected until four years later. The proponents actually admitted their intent was not to impact any currently sitting councilmembers.

Why should the incumbents be exempt? This is not being done to protect the voters, but just the opposite, to protect the politicians. If districting is such an important issue to them, then why are they pushing to disenfranchise voters?

The other two seats would be affected by the measure in 2016, which will include an incumbent (most likely Mary Salas). It would not protect the seat after the new councilmember is elected this November, unlike the protection it does provide for Aguilar.

My biggest disagreement with this proposed measure is how Aguilar offered up a compromise to allow for June elections to be determined by the voters represented within each district, but not allowing for an outright victory by any one candidate receiving more than 50 percent of the vote. The top two candidates would move on to the November election, then allowing the entire city population to elect the councilmembers.

Shouldn’t the entire purpose of this ballot measure be to ensure that a district is represented by someone that the district population feels will best represent them? Ms. Aguilar, do you believe the voters within each proposed district will not know what is best for them without the help of the rest of the city?

This, then, leads to my question on whether the Voters Act is violated by this method. As noted on Wikipedia, Section 2 of the Act “contains a general prohibition on voting discrimination, enforced through federal district court litigation. Congress amended this section in 1982, prohibiting any voting practice or procedure that has a discriminatory result. The 1982 amendment provided that proof of intentional discrimination is not required.”

By allowing a district representative to be elected by the whole city, the politicians are discriminating against those districts by requiring them to be beholden to the rest of the city in deciding who should represent their needs.

I would love any input from election law attorneys on this one, but it absolutely seems like a complete waste of taxpayer money to put this on the ballot, as I see a major lawsuit coming if it passes. This idea has not been researched appropriately and the voters are not being considered.

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