San Ramon council set to discuss overhaul of local election system

Plus: Craig Stevens to take oath of office as permanent police chief

District-based elections will be the main topic of conversation at the San Ramon City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday evening, and city officials are encouraging residents to attend the meeting to learn about upcoming changes to local elections and participate in the process.

In order to comply with a petition citing the California Voting Rights Act, the city is transitioning from its current method of at-large voting for elections to district-based voting, and city officials are seeking public input on how to best create four voting districts within the community.

Switching to district elections will mean residents only vote for the lone council member in their designated geographic region, as opposed to all residents choosing to vote from all council candidates at-large -- essentially meaning residents only vote for one candidate every four years, instead of each available council seat every two years as is the case under at-large voting.

In order to make the transition the council will need to make four distinct geographic districts, comprised of areas that contain similar population sizes, interests and concerns, with one council member representing each district. The mayoral position however, will still be voted upon at-large.

The transition was first initiated when the city received a letter by attorney Scott Rafferty on behalf of the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative on Nov. 5, threatening litigation if the council elected to not adhere to the CVRA.

Adopted in 2002, the CVRA seeks to ban any election system “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.” It further exposes agencies to litigation if they practice at-large voting, which it finds violates the rights of protected classes -- voters who are members of a race, color or language minority group.

City officials hope to have drafts of potential districts available for the public in time for its April 22 meeting, with final revision and adoption of district maps approved on or before June 25.

The City Council is set to discuss district-based elections as well as other issues at its regular meeting Tuesday, 7 p.m., at the City Hall, 7000 Bollinger Canyon Road.

In other business

* It appears the city is ready to select a permanent police chief to protect the residents of San Ramon, with Interim Police Chief Craig Stevens set to take the oath of office for the position permanently.

Stevens began his duties as interim chief in September, replacing former chief Dan Pratt who retired after 28 years on the force, 14 of which were spent in San Ramon.

Prior to being selected as the interim chief, Stevens served as a police captain for the San Ramon Police Department, the second-highest-ranking position in the agency.

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