Council Completes Transition to District Elections
Residents will now vote for council members based on where they live .
Starting with the General Municipal Election in November, residents can no longer vote for all council members. Rather, residents will only be able to vote for those that are running to serve the area where they live.
To avert a potentially costly legal challenge, the council changed the City’s method of electing future council members to a by-district system, rather than the at-large system employed in the past.
Previously, registered voters from throughout the City could cast ballots for any qualified candidate regardless of where the candidate lived. Now, only voters within a given district will be able to choose a candidate who resides within that district.
After holding four public hearings on the proposed change since November, the council gave final approval on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 by formally adopting an ordinance that institutes the change and divides the City into the following five voting districts:
- District 1: Brian Tisdale
- District 2: Steve Manos
- District 3: Daryl Hickman
- District 4: Natasha Johnson
- District 5: Robert E. Magee
As specified by election law, the ordinance is effective immediately. Therefore, on Nov. 6 only voters in the newly established Districts 1 and 3 will be allowed to cast ballots because those districts are represented by council members whose four-year terms are expiring; Council Member Daryl Hickman and Council Member Brian Tisdale. Voters in council Districts 2, 4 and 5 will have their chance to vote for their representatives in November 2020.
Lake Elsinore is among numerous jurisdictions throughout the state that have opted for voting by districts in recent years after facing legal challenges stemming from the California Voters Rights Act of 2002. The act made it easier for plaintiffs to win lawsuits against public agencies that elect officials at large, based on the contention that the system results in racially polarized voting.
While some cities have spent hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to defend themselves against such actions, the government agencies are prohibited by the act from recovering attorney fees and costs even if they prevail.
As a result, several Riverside County cities including Wildomar, Temecula and Hemet have switched to districts.
Like other California cities, the threat to Lake Elsinore came in a letter from the Malibu law firm of Shenkman and Hughes. In the September 2017 letter, attorney Kevin Shenkman asserts, “Lake Elsinore’s at-large system dilutes the ability of Latinos ... to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of Lake Elsinore’s council elections.” A response from the City Attorney was sent to Shenkman and Hughes.
Rather than invest large sums of money in litigation over the allegations, Lake Elsinore’s council members reluctantly agreed in November to start the process of converting to by-district elections.
Following the 2020 national census, the City must revisit the establishment of council district boundaries based on updated demographic data.
In drawing the boundaries this year, the City had to rely on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, which placed Lake Elsinore’s total population at about 53,000, of which 48 percent were Latino, 38 percent non-Latino white, 7 percent Asian-American and 5 percent non-Latino black.
Each of the districts has a population of 10,000 to 11,000, with the Latino population ranging from a low of 30 percent in District 3 to a high of 63 percent in District 5.
District 1 roughly covers the far southwest side of the City; District 2 overlays the north and northwest sections; District 3 encompasses the far eastern sector; District 4 occupies the north-central area bordering the northeastern corner of the lake; and District 5 ranges from the historic downtown zone to the area southeast of the lake.
Throughout the process of this change, the City Council has repeatedly assured the community that regardless of this change each of them remains committed to making the best decisions for entire City and will remain eager to assist any citizen in need.
The City Clerk will be conducting voter outreach through meetings and other various methods in the coming months, to ensure residents know which district they reside in and who their representatives are. In the meantime, residents can enter their addresses into the City’s interactive map to determine their districts.
At this time, there is no effect on the City Treasurer position and all voters within the City will have input on this position.
Interactive District Map - Enter Address to View District