Tuesday’s election may have marked the last in Danville conducted as an at-large voting method, as the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative has filed a petition requesting the town shift to district voting, a possibility the council will discuss at a study session Tuesday morning.
The petition -- received on Election Day -- is the first formal step under the California Voting Rights Act in moving Danville to district elections for the Town Council. The move would essentially mean residents would only vote for council members in their designated geographic district, as opposed to all residents choosing to vote from all council candidates at-large, as is the current practice.
“At -large voting dilutes minority electoral influence in the election of each of the legislative bodies in San Ramon Valley,” wrote Scott Rafferty, Esq., who is representing the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative. “Your councils and boards should consider this advice as an opportunity to engage the community in a collaborative process that avoids adversary litigation.”
Enacted in 2002, the California Voting Rights Act provides support for residents who are in a “protected class,” stating that at-large elections impair the abilities of protected classes to influence the outcome of an election -- a protected class is defined as voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group.
By shifting to district elections the hope is that municipalities will more accurately represent their residents demographics, and ensure that protected classes voices are heard during elections.
In the San Ramon Valley this is particularly relevant to its Asian population which makes up an estimated 33.5% of the population, according to the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative.
“This is not an attempt to displace incumbents, but rather to make a seat at the table for the Asian community and possibly for any other neighborhoods that have been chronically underrepresented,” Rafferty continued. “But it is more critically an opportunity to make local government in the San Ramon Valley more truly representative, to revitalize the engagement of the community in jurisdictions whose elections have been neglected, and to create opportunities for a new generation of political leaders that is as diverse as the growing population of the Valley.”
While Danville’s Asian American population is lower than the regional average -- 14.6% in 2010 -- the petition is taking a regional approach, reaching out to several San Ramon Valley agencies.
The petition was also addressed to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, the city of San Ramon, the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and the Dublin San Ramon Services District -- all of which also have at-large representative elections.
The study session is an informative meeting and will serve as a way to introduce the council and community to the issue.
Danville town staff noted that the petition indicated a willingness to engage in negotiations on timelines for transition to district elections.
The Danville Town Council study session is set to begin Tuesday 8 a.m. at the Danville Town Offices, 510 La Gonda Way.
In other business
* The Town Council is also set to discuss the preparations that are being made for the 37th annual Mayor’s Installation and Community Services Awards, set to be held Dec. 4.
* Danville’s Senior Advisory Committee will hold a special presentation informing the Town Council as well as the community how the group has been improving the lives of seniors throughout the town.
* Town finances is also on the docket to be discussed, as the council is set to review the draft of its 2017-2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
*T he council will discuss the potential of updating its investment policy in order to ensure public funds are invested in the most prudent and safe way possible.
The policy was last updated, reviewed and approved on Dec. 19, 2017.