LIVERMORE — The City Council has agreed to begin transitioning from at-large council elections to district based, after a lawsuit threat.
Kevin Shenkman, who represents Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, has made similar pre-lawsuit threats to other government entities, including the Dublin school board. He alleged that Livermore’s at-large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act. On Tuesday, council agreed to start the process to go from at-large elections, where voters elect all council members and mayor regardless of where they live, to district-based.
In a district-based system, the city will be divided into separate city council member areas, and voters who live within that district can elect their council member from their neighborhood. The number of districts will be decided by City Council after a series of public hearings over the next few months, according to the city.
The mayor will still be elected at-large by all Livermore voters.
The first two public hearings will allow residents to weigh in on the composition of the different districts. Another two hearings will focus on the draft maps for those district boundaries, the city said. The council is expected to consider an ordinance at its final public hearing to establish the districts and shift to the district election system for the 2020 election.
The first meeting will be held during the City Council’s July 23, which starts at 7 p.m.
Both the city of Fremont and the Dublin Unified School District agreed to switch to district elections in 2017 following similar letters from Shenkman, who has a reputation of sending these letters. According to the Los Angeles Times, he has not lost any litigation with government agencies that have tried to fight it. The city of Palmdale (Los Angeles County) spent about $7 million to fight the lawsuit, and ended up paying $4.5 million in Shenkman’s attorney fees.
For more information on Livermore’s district election switch, visit cityoflivermore.net/districtelections.