Measure A is an initiative to amend our city’s charter to change the process for electing our City Council. Measure A would change Santa Clara from at-large council representation to a city split into two districts, with three members from each district, and change voter selection to a rank choice system. Ranked choice voting as the way of the future and I trust it will be adopted county-wide as soon as the Registrar can implement the process. But it is not yet available and so that part of Measure A is a moot point at best. The real heart of Measure A is dividing our City in two, north and south.
After years of discussion over fair elections, with no action, Measure A was placed on the ballot only after several individuals sued the City under the California Voters’ Rights Act [CVRA]. The CVRA demands that cities throughout the state have fair elections giving equal opportunity to all candidates for public office. In Santa Clara we have struggled to see a Council reflect the diversity of our community.
Some cities have voluntarily divided into districts, such as Mountain View, which did so quite recently. Other cities have had districts imposed on them by judicial intervention, like Modesto and Watsonville, after lengthy and expensive litigation. Santa Clara seeks to avoid having change judicially imposed upon it by attempting to pass Measure A.
The City Council adopted the recommendations of our charter review committee to divide the city in half and adopt ranked choice voting, as a well-intentioned attempt to satisfy the CVRA and put an end to litigation. But Measure A does not reach far enough in terms of fairness and equality to satisfy the requirements of the Voters’ Rights Act.
The initial phase of the CVRA litigation is nearing conclusion. Although not a final judgment, the judge has issued a Statement of Decision and the case will proceed to the remedy phase. The entire Statement of Decision, which is a public record, is available for viewing and download at the court’s website. Scroll down to the end of this online page of the court’s public records:
https://cmportal.scscourt.org/Portal/Home/WorkspaceMode?p=0 and click on the link to the judge’s Statement of Decision.
Justice demands that we get this right. All votes matter. Voter education and outreach on this issue is crucial, especially to ESL residents. Any literature produced by the City concerning Measure A should be translated into languages that ALL Santa Clarans can read and understand. State law demands that printed ballots be translated into the languages of our communities, and in Santa Clara County, that means six different languages, as mandated by State Assembly bill 918. City Hall is disseminating literature about Measure A, at taxpayers’ expense (over $30,000.00 to date), but the city has yet to translate such literature into the languages spoken by our voters. How can we expect minority and diverse voters, whose rights the ballot measure purports to advance, to become educated on the issue when the City’s voter outreach materials are only printed in English? And Measure A appears to have been strategically placed on a ballot cycle that is known for low voter turnout, especially among non-white voters.
I cherish Santa Clara as a wonderfully diverse community, always welcoming people from around the world, hardworking individuals and families who come here for a better life. It’s time we have a council that better reflects our community.
That’s why I oppose Measure A. I appreciate the Charter Review Committee’s hard work and its attempt to find a middle ground. But it’s clear a compromise is not a solution under the laws of this State. It’s time to defeat Measure A and come up with a better solution. It is important to get this right.
Councilmember, City of Santa Clara
Former Santa Clara Mayor