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
Public Hearing ScheduleFirst Public Hearing was on February 1, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
Recording of First Hearing
Second Public Hearing on May 3, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
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Meeting ID: 863 7831 0407
Meeting ID: 863 7831 0407
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