District Elections

District Elections


When does this New Seven District Voting System Go Into Effect? 

Beginning with the November 2018 election, voters will participate in the first district-based election when five City Council seats will be up for election. Those will be in District 1 (the far north and central portion of the City), District 4 (the northeast portion), District 5* (the central portion of the City) and District 6 (South of the 210 to the Southern Central border.  Incumbent Councilmember Tzeitel Paras Caracci lives in District 1, Councilmember Margaret Finlay resides in District 4, Councilmember Sam Kang resides in District 5 and no incumbent lives in District 6 or 7. 

In the November 2020 election, voters in Districts 2 (northwest) and 3 (northeast) and 7 will each elect a City Councilmember. Mayor John Fasana lives in District 2, Mayor Pro-Tem Liz Reilly lives in District 3 and the District 7 seat will be on the ballot again, this time, for a four-year term.


Why Did the City of Duarte Adopt Seven Voting Districts?


The Duarte City Council on voted at its November 13, 2017 public hearing to adopt the seven-district election map. The final map was chosen after the Council listened to the public during five public hearings, considered suggestions and reviewed 17 draft maps submitted by the public and six maps reflecting five, seven and nine district configurations submitted by the City-hired demographer. Overall, the Council decided that the City's population had to be equally divided into seven districts; all districts had to all contain a portion of one of the City’s business districts; each district had to contain a park; districts had to keep communities of interest together and adhere to the rules set by both the Federal and California Voting Rights Acts. The Council also wanted to ensure both continuity and decision making as the City transitioned to district elections over the next two election cycles. 


Why Choose To Move Towards District Elections Now?


Like more than 70 other cities and 155 school districts across the state, Duarte is starting the process to change how voters elect the City Council.  Duarte is in the process of responding to a potential challenge by a private legal group relating to its current at-large election process.  As has been the case across the State, challengers to the “at large” voting method in Duarte allege it is inconsistent with the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).  The City Council has decided to take advantage of recent legislation (AB 350) that provides a short window of opportunity to discuss, invite public input and ultimately decide on a District-Based Election Process.  That protection requires a City Council to adopt a Resolution of Intent within 45 days of receiving the letter alleging a CVRA violation. Upon adoption, the City Council is provided with an additional 90 days to conduct five (5) Public Hearings prior to adopting an ordinance ordering the transition to district elections (Elections Code Section 10010).  On September 20, 2017, the Duarte City Council adopted a Resolution declaring its intent to transition to district-based elections.


What's The Difference Between At-Large and District-Based Elections?


Since incorporation sixty years ago, Duarte has always had an at-large election system, where voters of the entire city elect all members of the City Council. District elections will divide the city into geographic sections. Voters within each section (district) will vote only for candidates residing within the same district. Voters will not vote for candidates outside of their own district.


What Have Other Cities Done When Facing Threats of Litigation?


Almost without exception, other cities have changed their method of electing City Councilmembers, either voluntarily or by Court order. Those agencies that have attempted to defend their existing at-large electoral system in court have incurred significant legal costs because the CVRA gives plaintiffs the right to recover attorney's fees, but denies a city's ability to be reimbursed for its attorney's fees even if the city wins the case. A few examples:

  • Palmdale: $4.7 million
  • Modesto: $3 million
  • Anaheim: $1.1 million
  • Whitter: $1 million
  • Santa Barbara: $600,000
  • West Covina: $220,000


Why Haven't Cities Prevailed In Challenging These Allegations?


Under the Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) plaintiffs must prove the existence of three specific conditions to assert a violation. In addition, the Court will weigh the totality of circumstances to determine if the votes of minority voters are diluted. The CVRA removes one of the three specific conditions and eliminates consideration of the totality of circumstances. This results in an extremely light burden on the plaintiff to establish a CVRA violation.


What Are "Communities of Interest"?

A "community of interest" is a neighborhood or community that share local interests, views, or characteristics. Possible community features include:

  • School Attendance Areas;
  • Natural dividing lines such as major roads, hills, or highways;
  • Areas around parks and other neighborhood landmarks;
  • Common issues, neighborhood activities, or legislative/election concerns; and
  • Shared demographic characteristics, such as:
  • ◦Similar levels of income, education, or linguistic isolation;
  • ◦Languages spoken at home; and
  • ◦Single-family and multi-family housing unit areas.

Some communities of interest wish to be united in a single district. Others prefer to have multiple Council Members who represent, and are accountable to, voters in the community.


Who Creates The District Maps?


Professional demographers are hired by cities to create proposed district boundaries. These demographers ensure that the proposed maps comply with FVRA and CVRA requirements as well as consider the feedback received from the community during the Public Hearing process. The City of Duarte’s City Attorney entered into a professional services agreement with National Demographics Corporation (NDC) for these services. The public may also submit their own maps.  See County verified map by clicking here.


Shouldn't This Go To The Voters For Approval?

Unfortunately, cities facing allegation of violating the CVRA could still be subject to litigation even if it submits the question of whether to switch to district elections to the voters. Even if the voters ultimately oppose switching to district elections, cities would remain vulnerable to accusations that the election resulted in polarized-voting in violation of the CVRA. And if the vote on changing the election system is racially polarized, that result becomes additional evidence in favor of plaintiffs in a CVRA lawsuit. Therefore, City Councils must decide whether to follow the procedures under Elections Code Section 10010 to change to a district-based elections process, or to defend its at-large election system in court.


What Happens If There Are No Candidates in A District?

The California Elections Code authorizes the City Council to solicit applications from interested parties that reside within the district, following the normal procedure for filling any vacancy on the Council. The applicants would be considered and finalists would be interviewed by the City Council. A nominee would be appointed to serve on the City Council to represent the district in question. If this situation were to occur specific details, deadlines, and the application process would be vetted and approved by the City Council.