California set to impose district elections on cities

There has been talk lately around the California Legislature that cities of over 100,000 in population be required to elect their city councils on a district rather than an at-large basis. The assumption, according to Assemblyman Rodger Hernandez (D-West Covina) who advocates this strategy is that district elections would assure more diversity on the local level.

As most cities are divided by wealthier and poorer areas, Progressives believe that perceived racism and inequality would be addressed by making this change. Such a notion is yet another example of the liberal legislature in Sacramento trying to impose social engineering schemes on local constituents who they feel lack the ability to elect qualified representatives on their own.

Ironically, re-apportionment done by the legislature once a decade has historically been designed only to provide safe districts for incumbents rather than creating better opportunities for under represented constituencies.

District elections are nothing new. On a county level, they are utilized throughout the country including Contra Costa County. In cities, they have been in place in San Francisco, New York and other metropolitan areas for years.

About District Elections

Under this system, members of  City Councils, like County Supervisors, are accountable to an electorate from a specific geographical area or district. They are asked to concern themselves principally with this group in their overall decision making. Along with this it is believed elections will be less controlled by large special interest groups  as a candidate can concentrate their campaigns in a smaller geographical area.

As an example, we can look to the scrutiny that local governments have over their budgets and city operations. Do we want to trade this for a model where responsibility for the entire community is decentralized to district representatives? Most likely not.

Under district elections, money would actually be a larger factor in elections. With funds coming from both the political parties it might prove even more difficult for the little guy to be elected. Again, unintended consequences result when tinkering with a system that is already working better than on any other levels of government.

Not to be forgotten is the notion that district elections would result in more qualified officer holders than those elected to city Council positions today.  There seems to be an assumption on the part of Assemblyman  Roger Hernandez that medium sized cities are ruled by bigoted racists who only concern themselves with the wealthy and the privileged. Some hurt must be avenged. Hernandez must believe that District elections will rectify this perceived discrimination which he says violates civil rights statutes.

There is no data or empirical evidence to back up this class warfare argument. Such pronouncements from Progressives follow the discredited Marxist notion that a just society can only be achieved by having the proletariat hold political power over the masses. This certainly does not describe life in Contra Costa County. And truth be told, on most Animal Farms, such schemes usually elevate the loudest Leftist elites to power, who then start digging in to protect their power, and pretend to speak for the lumpen proletariate, while living the high life playing golf instead of governing.

Are District Elections an evil conspiracy that should be avoided at all costs? Of course not. It is true that in many cases when cities grow in size and voters feel that they are disenfranchised, office holders being accountable to a smaller constituency can make sense. However, for this to take place, a population over 250,000 people is normally needed for district elections to even be considered.

I personally don’t care if Concord, where I reside, has district elections or not. While I oppose them, this decision should be determined by a direct vote of the people. It should be their choice that determines which system is right for them.

What bothers me is where the State of California might try to impose their will on cities to decide how they elect their representatives. Such a trend worries me with the intrusion of regional government organizations such as ABAG and the MTC along with the legislature taking local control away from the urban planning process.

Adding insult to injury, we also find the state putting strings on local governments on how they are to spend tax dollars on fixing roads, sewers, and infrastructure that has normally come under their jurisdiction. Unless credible opposition is realized, the Super Majority in the legislature will continue to pass laws that increase the power of Sacramento over their minions, and we won’t have effective municipal government at all.

Trying to push forward District Elections is another example of Progressives trying to impose their agenda of social change whenever they can. Judging from the recent performance of government efficiency on the State and national levels, we need to be wary of having them assuming more power over local communities.

Life has taught us that whenever someone tells you they are an expert on anything, it’s time to put on the PF Fliers and run like hell!


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  1. says

    Proponents of imposing district elections in California cities don’t know what they are talking about. District elections, especially single-member districts, do not produce the purported benefit, that of electing minorities that ushers in some era of more meaningful representation.

    True minority representation is the last thing on the minds of politicians promoting district elections, especially when THEY own the power to count the heads they want them counted and draw the lines they way they want them drawn.

    In reality land, with California redistricting per the 20210 census as living proof, any kind of district drawing by either major party or even by a court is solely intended to be an incumbent protection racket.

    The use of specially drawn districts are rooted in Federal Court 1970+ mandates in the deep South and other municipalities to alleviate perceived voting discrimination. The whole notion of carving out special districts for race produces nightmare district lines that rip apart communities. The Supreme Court has recently indicated that for better or usually worse, such shenanigans are no longer needed and (subtext) were never effective.

    Proponents of district elections rely on the false assumption that all ethnic groups have monolithic political interests and blindly vote race or ethnicity. However black or Latinos on one side of Concord might find that a candidate on the other side of Concord better represents their perspective and interests. To reduce political communities to race is despicable. Ideas and policies are what matter and these know no district lines.

    It’s like assuming all women will vote as a monolithic block. And, as a received minority class, women, have had no problem getting elected in the past decade whether at state, local or federal level without a special district.

    Racially motivated busing didn’t help inner city kids get better educations, and district elections alone will not get better representation for anybody.

    In a town like Concord, where the entire polity faces challenges about the future that will affect us all, the commonweal, one voice must be democratically elected to best represent all of Concord. The only outcomes district elections in Concord would achieve will be to create five mayors, each competing for their own parochial neighborhood and career advancement, while effectively taking representation away from 50% less 1 percent of voters who might find a candidate from another district the better choice.

    At-large voting in a multi-member district currently at work in Cncord, for instance, in itself, is not much better. First of all, when only 60 percent of voters turn out and a candidate can win with only 16% of the votes, what kind of meaningful representation is that, anyways? That’s less than 10% of registered voters!

    Not being one to bitch and moan and offer no alternatives, here are my suggestions.

    It would be better to have representation that achieves a real majority, not merely simple plurality (so-called) winners. The introduction of preference voting is the only electoral system that would enable this goal.

    In a multi-member district, preference voting, would work in the form of single-transferable vote (STV) so that if your first choice is eliminated your vote transfer to your next favorite, so that by the end of the counting true majority winners are elected.

    In single-member districts, like supervisorial, and other County, assembly or Senate seats, instant-run0ff voting (IRV) can be used to achieve the same outcome without the expense of runoff elections when a majority winner is not produced in a primary. This alone could save counties tens of thousands of dollars each election cycle.

    Preference voting makes it harder for fringe candidates with divisive campaigns to compete as smart candidates would appeal across the entire polity for second or third preference to voters may already have a favorite. Concentrating on being number two or three can be a winning strategy.

    In this manner, using preference voting in an at-large district, voters in some ethnically or racially defined neighborhood could actually help elect five candidates over a four year bi-annual Council election cycle instead of just one.

    The problem with preference voting is party bosses, consultants, and their moneyed backers hate it because it mitigates the influence of their money’s impact, especially in runoff elections that typically have lower turnout.

    Forget about her politics or chances for a second term for a second, but simply recall the anger and gnashing of teeth by the professional political class when Jean Quan upset the machine favorites in an IRV race for Mayor of Oakland in 2012. And this bloc that seeks to divide rather than unite voters, still actively agitate to repeal IRV in San Francisco that has produced true majority winners in districts without issue for 6+ election cycles. In contrast, moneyed interests always rely on plurality voting so they can slice and dice the electorate to make it to the runoff where they have clear sailing to back their candidate to the hilt while suppressing turnout.

    Dimes to donuts Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy both hate IRV. Incumbents want to protect incumbency no matter what. This is what is driving Hernandez et al to tout district elections in California. It is a sham issue; a fig leaf to cover their true intentions of consolidating power by custom designing new districts to better defend their party majority.

    All of this is why I also contend any campaign finance reform is meaningless as long as we continue to elect candidates (either in single or multi-member districts) by simple plurality voting.

  2. says

    Assemblyman Hernanez’ contends that district elections would more diversity on the local level.. Perhaps in some areas but is this a good thing? I think not. I agree with Thomas Sowell who recently wrote in regard to diversity “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.!”

    • R ichard Eber says

      You are so right Barbara in passing down Thomas Sewell’s wise words :When people get use to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems to be discrimination! We see this phenomena throughout the Obama administration everywhere from trying to find imaginary discrimination in Red States voter registration laws to blaming racial bias for the Auto Workers Union losing the vote to represent the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

  3. Jack Weir says

    One grows weary just trying to keep up with the flood of oppressive measures pouring out of Sacramento and Washington, DC. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to take away our firearms, and force single-payer health care down our throats!