The Santa Clarita City Council is set to hold the second of two hearings Thursday on what the future of an electoral map for the city of Santa Clarita will look like.
As the result of a second lawsuit alleging a California Voting Rights Act violation, the city announced last year it was moving to district-based elections.
The lawsuit settlement noted that, after November’s election, there would be two public hearings to give the public a chance to weigh in on those maps.
The city announced the schedule in February for those hearings, which were both set to take place in the Newhall Community Center, before technical difficulties with the setting prompted the council to move the second meeting to Council Chambers.
That’s now scheduled to take place at 6 p.m., according to a website the city created as part of the settlement: santa-clarita.com/city-hall/district-elections.
The website also allowed an opportunity for residents to submit their own suggestions for the maps, as well as access to a mapping tool so they can draw their own, although the City Council and the plaintiffs have put forth a map that they say will satisfy or be considered a remedy for the alleged CVRA violation.
The map offers one way to avoid further litigation from the plaintiffs in the CVRA lawsuit, Michael Cruz and Sebastian Cazares, according to previous statements by Scott Rafferty, an attorney for the plaintiffs. The map addresses their concerns — the allegation that the city’s at-large elections deny the city’s Latino residents an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice — by creating a district largely in Newhall, which also carves out a portion of the western side of Canyon Country.
“I will say I’m hopeful the proposed joint map will be adopted by the city,” Cruz said in a statement via text Friday.
Based on the public input so far, there may not be much concern there. Only two residents have submitted their own revised maps, with one of the two sending seven different versions, all of which have been available on the city’s aforementioned website. There’s also a handful of comments and suggestions about the borders of certain areas.
Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth said while residents have definitely become more aware of how local government can impact their daily lives, particularly in light of the pandemic and all of the regulations associated with it, he wasn’t surprised by the relatively low level of input from residents on the districting process.
Since first receiving a threat letter regarding the initial allegation of the violation, the council has largely maintained a view that it was changing its elections because a CVRA lawsuit is practically impossible to win, not because it agreed with the plaintiffs’ contentions.
“I think given the general lack of community input on the issue of districts, particularly since we started this public process, in earnest, well over a year ago,” he said Friday, “there just hasn’t been real significant feedback or input from the community, whether it be at council meetings or even direct communication from residents.”