The letter by Andres Sanchez-Sanchez (March 22), and all of the similar letters before his, got me to wondering why there has been so much of a “to-do” with our city’s switching from at-large voting to district voting, as so many cities have done in the past.
So, I did some research into what each type is, what are their differences, and which one, based on my research and opinion, more fairly and equitably “represents our population” on the City Council.
Just so you know, I’m not here to agree or disagree with what anyone has written on this matter in the past. This represents my own views based on my own logic and reasoning, and I will admit that it’s almost impossible for me to empathize with anyone in whose shoes I have never walked, but here goes.
In the first comparison I came across entitled, “District vs. At-Large Races: The Final Frontier of Voting Rights,” at a site called Californialocal.com, was this sentence: “What’s the problem with at-large elections? Simple. They are a form of voter discrimination.”
That statement directly contradicts the letters complaining about district voting. So, my first conclusion was that there are two, if not more, sides to every story, and that all of them could be correct — it depends a lot on who and what your needs are.
That article went on to say this: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg specifically singled out at-large elections as a ‘second-generation barrier’ to minority ballot access that should be barred by the law. (‘First-generation’ barriers include voter ID laws, literacy tests, restrictions on polling places and so on.) … All that’s needed is for one large neighborhood or voting block to vote cohesively enough to build up an insurmountable lead over the rest of the field … As a result, the majority of voters can see all their favored candidates lose election after election.”
That, by the way, is one of the main reasons people drove the Mormons out of Missouri (upon threat of “extermination”) in 1838.
Looking at the (proposed) voting district map for the city of Santa Clarita it’s apparent that the five districts divide the city somewhat equally by population as well as by surface area, and each sends its representative to the City Council.
At-large voting, on the other hand, selects the five winners to the City Council no matter where they live. Under at-large voting it is conceivable that they could all live in the same neighborhood. I can’t see the fairness in that.
Since most Latinos tend to live in only one of the districts it could seem discriminatory to them that they get only one out of the five votes, but the fact remains that they represent only (about one-fourth)of the city’s population.
The other (three-fourths), whoever they are, must have their say as well, and if that is discriminatory then the only way to wipe out discrimination altogether is to have all the races intermarry and have the same level of education, income, etc.
Now I am in Fantasyland, but I think you get the picture.
To me, district voting is more equitable for the whole, all things considered, than at-large voting, and that’s the main reason more cities are adopting it.
So, while there is no “perfect,” I think district voting is closer to it than at-large voting.