Escondido’s Planned Shift to District Elections Needs Some More Work

SAN DIEGO – Yet again concerned about a lack of accountability and transparency in Escondido city practices, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties today sent a letter to the city council critiquing a city charter ballot measure being voted on at tonight’s council meeting.

At issue is a proposal for a November 2012 city initiative to establish four districts for the election of city council members.  The San Diego ACLU does not take a position on the merits of the measure, but to ensure transparency and fairness in how such districts might be drawn, the San Diego ACLU made specific proposals to ensure that the Charter complies with voting rights laws:

  • The Charter as proposed needs to outline the process and the criteria by which district boundaries will be drawn
  • The Charter should include a requirement that there be multiple public hearings and notice to the public about the process and should allow for community input
  • All hearings and notices and information must be posted in all languages where there are more than 10,000 or over five percent of the total voting age citizens with limited English proficiency
  • The Charter should include the criteria by which districts will be drawn, including respect for communities of interest and that it will follow the Constitution and federal law
  • The city council should not be responsible for drawing the boundaries and the Charter should instead provide for the appointment of an independent commission, like that used by the City of San Diego, who will be free from political influence.

“District boundaries have to guarantee the American notion of ‘one person, one vote’ and the right of every citizen to cast a meaningful ballot,” said Lori Shellenberger, civic engagement attorney for the San Diego ACLU.  “The body creating district plans should be free from political influence and should represent the diversity of the city.  Therefore, we feel it is especially important that any charter include the creation of an independent commission to develop and adopt any district plan.”