Paso Robles shifts to district voting system

April 22, 2019

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Paso Robles City Council voted last Tuesday to finalize a shift from an at-large electoral system to by-district voting, a move that is intended to appease a lawyer who threatened the city with a lawsuit over the alleged suppression of Latino voting rights. [Cal Coast Times]

Last year, attorney Kevin Shenkman, of Shenkman & Hughes, authored a letter to the city of Paso Robles alleging its at-large system violated the California Voting Rights Act. Paso Robles had racially polarized voting, a pattern in which different racial groups support opposing candidates, Shenkman wrote.

Shenkman, who has threatened multiple cities with lawsuits if they do not change their electoral systems, said racially polarized voting was diluting the Latino vote in Paso Robles.

No Latino had run for city council in Paso Robles in the last 20 years, despite Latinos comprising about 34.5 percent of the city’s population, Shenkman wrote. The letter threatened a lawsuit if Paso Robles did not shift to a by-district electoral system.

The city has maintained that racially polarized voting has not occurred in Paso Robles, and residents oppose by-district elections. But, because of the high risk of losing in court, city officials opted to comply with the demand of shifting to a by-district system.

On Tuesday, the Paso Robles council adopted an ordinance that creates four voting districts within the city. Districts 1 through 4 are respectively 43 percent, 30 percent, 26 percent, and 39 percent Latino. The districts are respectively 50 percent, 64 percent, 68 percent, and 55 percent white.

District 1 is comprised of the northeastern and northwestern areas of the city, including the northern part of the downtown area. District 2 stretches along the eastern edge of Paso Robles and includes, as well, sections of the central and southern parts of the city. District 3 consists of the southwestern part of the city, including the core of the downtown, while District 4 is comprised of the southeastern corner of the city.

Elections for the districts 3 and 4 seats will take place in 2020. Districts 1 and 2 are expected to elect their council members in 2022.

Excluding the mayor, who will still be elected by an at-large system, one sitting council member lives in each district, according to the Tribune. Councilman John Hamon lives in District 1; Councilwoman Maria Garcia lives in District 2; Councilman Steve Gregory lives in District 3; and Councilman Fred Strong lives in District 4.

Despite approving the electoral changes, the city is considering returning to an at-large system in the future, if it can ensure the system would be compliant with the California Voting Rights Act. Following the 2020 census, even if Paso Robles keeps its new voting system, the city’s district boundaries are expected to change.


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DPINC

Just as king city , Salinas , Bakersfield , Fresno , avenal ,coalinga. Fresno , Kettlemen etc etc are majority Hispanic .Just like California is. East Indian Iranian iraqin Afghanis etc etc are listed as white


MrYan

Your point? Other than really not liking that people, who are not European, are claiming white status. They’re filling up California!


I think you suffer from Hispanic Sixth Sense——you see them everywhere.


And if you do? So what. It’s a free country.


DPINC

No I see them invading not immigrating . In Mexico for instance as a non citizen I cannot do manual labor in my business …I must hire local citizens to do the labor …Mexico city is what 35 million people lots of universities colleges tech and vocational schools …but thousands of Hispanics I’ve met from Mexico have never been to Mexico city ….it wasn’t hard for them to get there they just didn’t go … Just did what they wanted didn’t get an education didn’t get a average normal succeedable job .. Just picked up their tent stakes and headed for the freebies and good life in USA


DPINC

The west section of unit 1….is at least 80 percent Hispanic the East section sparsely populated …and most of 2, 3 and 4 is also majority Hispanic ….So it appears democrats …. will be in like flynn


MrYan

The article laid out the numbers in each district that were Hispanic. Each well below 50%.


Which begs the question. Are you sure it just doesn’t FEEL like 80% to you?


DPINC

No I lived and worked in Paso Robles many years. .my friends have businesses there currently I would say my estimate correct …Go drive around those areas go inside the stores and massive apt complexes .Oak park is almost 100 percent Hispanic for last 30 years at least .White people mostly live outside the city limits as with most cities in Cali..Or go walk around high school or look at graduating classes at 60 to 70 percent Hispanic students in Paso high


kayaknut

Most cities should change to districts, city council power is often clustered, Arroyo Grande currently has this issue.


rukidding

Racially motivated. Are elections going to become color coded?


MrYan

The point is they’ve been racially unmotivated in Paso.

At 34% of the population Hispanics had little hope of getting someone on the council that represents their viewpoint.


It is similar to the flaw in electoral college with “winner take all” states. Red state Dems have no reason to vote in Presidential elections, same with Blue state Republicans. If electoral votes were awarded by districts then areas like Fresno and Bakersfield would give votes to Republican presidential candidates proportional % to their population instead of zero as it stands now.


Which would be a better reflection of how WE all vote. Paso has made an improvement to better represent its citizens.