Transition to District Elections
The City of Burlingame is transitioning from at-large elections to by-district elections. The following information is provided so that you can learn about the process, submit comments, and stay informed about the proposed district boundaries. We encourage you to participate in this process and contact us prior to the meetings if you have any questions.
On January 17, 2020, the City received a letter from Kevin Shenkman, of the law firm Shenkman & Hughes, alleging that the City's at-large election system violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (CVRA) The letter alleged that the City's current voting system "dilute[d] the ability of Asians ... to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of the City's council elections." This argument is based primarily on the fact that while Asian-Americans comprise around 20% of the City's population, an Asian-American has never been elected to the City Council. The population data used is based on the 2010 census.
The CVRA, which was passed in 2002, prohibits at-large elections when it can be shown that they impair the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of their choice or to influence elections in a significant way. The law was passed in part due to a lack of success by plaintiffs utilizing the CVRA's federal counterpart, the Federal Voting Rights Act, to show that "racially polarizing voting" exists in the jurisdiction; they do not need to show any intent of voters or City officials to discriminate against the underrepresented class. They also do not need to prove that changing to district elections would increase representation on the elected body in question.
On March 2, 2020 the Council met in closed session to consider the letter and the various options available to the City.
On March 16, 2020, the Council adopted Resolution Number 032-2020 reflecting its intent to transition from at-large to by-district for Council elections.
To assist with the transition, the City hired Redistricting Partners, a firm that specializes in drawing district lines for jurisdictions. At the January 4, 2021 City Council meeting, Paul Mitchell of Redistricting Partners gave a presentation on the districting process and the factors that are taken into consideration when drawing district boundaries.
Please explore the following links to learn more about Burlingame’s transition to district elections:
- California Voting Rights Act
- California Voting Rights Act “Safe Harbor” provision
- FAIR MAPS Act
- Federal Voting Rights Act
- January 17, 2020 “demand letter” alleging violation of the California Voting Rights Act
- March 16, 2020 staff report City Council declaring it’s intent to transition from at-large elections to by-district elections
- January 4, 2021 staff report authorizing the City Manager to enter into a professional services agreement with Redistricting Partners for the purpose of transitioning from at-large to by-district councilmember elections
Public Hearing Schedule
- February 1, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87396802731?pwd=aUdSbDZaS2N1NXB6bzk0eExvaFZIQT09
Meeting ID: 873 9680 2731
- May 3, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
How to Submit Comments for a Public Hearing
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your question/comment
- Raise your “Zoom” hand during the meeting to comment live
- Utilize the Zoom chat feature to submit your comment to the City Clerk
Who to Contact for Questions