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ALSD To Consider Area-Based Voting Options


ALSD To Consider Area-Based Voting Options

The Alta Loma School District Board of Trustees will hold a third public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 20, at the District Support Center to discuss area-based trustee elections, as prescribed by the California Voting Rights Act of 2001.

The public hearing will address community concerns and input about moving forward with the district’s switch from at-large to trustee-by-area elections in 2020.

“Our school board members have publicly expressed opposition to moving to area-based elections, but their hands are tied – at least for now,” said ALSD Superintendent James Moore.

“Unfortunately, we have no choice.”

Wednesday’s meeting is intended to answer resident questions, provide information about area voting and solicit input and suggestions about mapping options.

The Alta Loma School District boundaries will be divided into five separate sections in which one trustee will represent each area. Voters will elect a trustee to represent their specific geographic area.

Board members will be elected in alternating voting cycles. For example, at least two positions will be up for election during the 2020 election and will represent designated geographic regions. Voters in the remaining areas will not vote for a school board member in 2020. The pattern will reverse in 2022, when the residents who did not vote in 2020 will vote for their respective representatives.

All current board members were elected at-large and will remain under that designation until their respective area-based election in either 2020 or 2022.

The consulting firm Cooperative Strategies will work with ALSD staff to draw the trustee area map options within the overall school district boundaries. Potential area maps will be based on public input, the overall district population breakdown and a variety of other factors.

“We realize the community will have many questions and feelings about how to best make this work,” Moore said. “That’s why it’s important that people attend the meeting so that we can take the first steps toward determining community opinions and priorities. Those will be highly valuable to Cooperative Strategies in their process of developing several map options.”

A public hearing will follow at a future Board of Trustees meeting before the final trustee areas are determined.

The California Voting Rights Act, which was approved in 2001 and took effect in 2003, gained little attention until recently. The legislation is intended to make it easier for all ethnic groups to be represented in public elections by dividing a city, school district or other public agency into voting districts.

Over the past several years, dozens of California cities and school districts have switched from at-large elections in which all voters within the jurisdiction choose everyone on the council or school board, to district elections in which voters are divided geographically to elect their specific area’s representative.

The widespread change in local voting practices throughout the state is largely a result of the work of Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman, who for several years has been suing, or threatening to sue, cities, school districts and other public agencies to follow the CVRA. To date, every effort to fight CVRA lawsuits has resulted in costly defeats.

Shenkman recently threatened the Alta Loma School District with legal action if it did not make a similar change. The ALSD school board elected to initiate the process toward by-trustee-area elections, but is closely monitoring lawsuits in other jurisdictions for a possible shift in legal precedent.

Locally, the cities of Rancho Cucamonga and Upland have switched to council districts, as well as Etiwanda, Central, and Cucamonga School Districts.