Last night, in a nearly unanimous vote, the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) passed a resolution endorsing an eight-district plan for the Anaheim City Council. The resolution was the product of the work of the local Democratic Party’s Resolution Committee which was adopted by the Executive Board two weeks ago and sent to the Party Central Committee for consideration Tuesday evening. The resolution passed by a virtually unanimous vote; with one vote opposed and one abstention.
DPOC Chairman Henry Vandermeir was tapped by the party to deliver the resolution to the Anaheim City Council during the Public Comment portion of Tuesday’s council meeting.
Adoption of District Elections in Anaheim
WHEREAS Anaheim, with about 350,000 residents, is California’s largest city that elects its Council members at-large; many smaller cities have already adopted district elections; and Anaheim’s ratio of 67,235 residents per elected Council member is much higher than the four next largest and next smallest cities, whose average ratio is 44,467 residents per council member; and
WHEREAS Anaheim has a history of racially/ethnically polarized voting – a distinct group of Latino voters (almost a third of all voters) consistently votes for different candidates than the majority, cannot elect even a single City Council member of their choice, and the 125,000-person region of “West Anaheim,” with a Latino majority, has not had a resident elected to the City Council since 1998; and
WHEREAS the Anaheim City Council’s lack of minority representation has contributed to disproportionate distribution of city assets – park space, public libraries, community centers, and more – to areas outside of Latino-majority “West and Central Anaheim”; and its serving the majority has come at the cost of substantial detriment to its minority residents; therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that the Democratic Party of Orange County urges that (1) Anaheim adopt eight single-member Council districts, each initially representing approximately 44,000 residents, plus a Mayor elected at-large citywide; (2) these districts be drawn by an independent panel of retired judges, for more equitable and direct representation; (3) City Council candidates be required to have resided in their district (made it their actual, primary, and voting residence) for at least six months before their election and during their entire tenure in that office; (4) election of a district’s Council member be limited to voters registered at addresses therein; (5) the Anaheim City Council place a districting proposal on the ballot in time for districts to be finalized and then Council members elected by district during the 2014 general election (rather than let another City Council election violate the California Voting Rights Act and Latino voters’ civil rights); and (6) Anaheim City Council members and Orange County Democratic elected officials support this resolution publicly and in writing.
The matter of Council Districts is the subject of a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed last year by Los Amigos of Orange County and the ACLU. The City Council has established a controversial Elections Advisory Commission Commission made up of community residents (two members appointed by each member of the city council, to deliberate on the matter of districts and minority representation on the city council. To date, the City Council has spent more than $287,000 defending against the suit.