CVRA By-Trustee Area Election

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    Background

    Board members in the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) are currently elected in “at-large” elections, where all board members are elected by voters throughout the entire school district. On February 25, 2021, the Board adopted Resolution 20-21-12, in response to a letter threatening to sue the District under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). SMUHSD intends to transition from at-large to by-trustee area Board elections, where each Board member must reside within the designated trustee area boundary, and is elected only by the voters in that trustee area. In By-Trustee Area Elections, voters only vote for one seat on the school board.

    On February 24, 2022, following six public hearings and extensive public outreach to members of the community, the Board of Trustees, selected map 102 as its preferred trustee area boundary map and the alternative election sequence (that will allow voters to elect a trustee from area 1, area 3, and area 5 in the Fall 2022 election and elect trustees in area 2 and area 4 in the 2024 election) as its preferred sequence. The Board also adopted Resolution 21-22-21. This action by the Board initiates a proposal to the San Mateo County Committee on School District Organization for the Adoption of By-Trustee Area Elections for final action on the map and alternative election sequence. At its March 7 meeting, the County Committee on School District Organization unanimously approved the adoption of a resolution to accept the District’s proposed map and election sequence.    

    Public Hearings

    February 24, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Final Map Adoption Hearing. The Board held a public hearing and selected map 102 as its preferred trustee area boundary map and the alternative election sequence as its preferred sequence. The Board also adopted Resolution 21-22-21 initiating a proposal to the San Mateo County Committee on School District Organization for the Adoption of By-Trustee Area Elections. A recording of the meeting can be found on the District’s website. The item begins at 65:52

    February 17, 2022 - Special Board Meeting - The District held a public hearing as part of a special board meeting to review maps. The Board selected draft map 102 and the alternative election sequence as its tentative first choices. See the presentation made by Lozano Smith and National Demographics Corporation. A recording of the meeting can be found on the District’s website. The presentation begins at 2:16:00.

    February 10, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Map Review Hearing #2 - The Board reviewed five draft maps. After receiving public input and discussing the merits of each map, the Board has selected draft map 102 as its tentative first choice. Draft maps 103 and 103b are still being considered. Draft maps 101 and 104 were eliminated from consideration. See the presentation made by Lozano Smith and National Demographics Corporation. A recording of the meeting may be found on the District’s website. The presentation begins around 2:05. 

    January 20, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Map Review Hearing #1. The demographer presented proposed maps, and the District held a hearing for public consideration. A recording of the meeting may be found on the District's website. The presentation begins around 2:18:36.

    September 9, 2021 - Regular Board Meeting - Pre-Map Public Hearing #2. The District’s demographers, the National Demographics Corporation, presented information on the process and criteria for drawing the trustee-area boundary maps. The Board held the second of two statutorily required hearings prior to the preparation of trustee area map options to receive input from the community on the composition of the trustee areas. (Elections Code section 10010, subdivision (a)(1).) The Board adopted a resolution selecting the criteria for the demographer to consider when drafting trustee maps. A recording of the meeting may be found on the District's website. The presentation begins around 2:43:00.

    August 26, 2021 - Regular Board Meeting - Pre-Map Public Hearing #1. The District held the first public hearing in the process prior to maps being drawn. See the presentation made by Lozano Smith and National Demographics Corporation. A recording of the meeting may be found on the District's website. The presentation begins around 1:28:00

    Update - April 16, 2021

    Board Approves Settlement Agreement with Shenkman & Hughes

    The Board of Trustees reported that on April 1, the full Board in closed session unanimously approved a settlement agreement with the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes regarding the District’s transition to by-trustee area elections. Shenkman & Hughes has since also approved that settlement agreement. Under the agreement, the District commits to make the transition to by-trustee areas by the 2022 Board election, and to pay Shenkman & Hughes a total of $27,000

    Update - February 26, 2021

    Board of Trustees Adopts Resolution
    The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt the resolution to declare the intent to transition from at-large to by-trustee area Board elections at their February 25 meeting. The presentation can be viewed here.

    Update - February 22, 2021

    Board of Trustees to Consider Resolution for By-Trustee Area Board Elections at February 25 meeting
    The San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees is currently elected under an “at-large” election system, where trustees are elected by voters of the entire District. In January 2021, the District received a demand letter from a law firm, asserting that the District’s current at-large elections violate the California Voting Rights Act (Elec. Code, § 14025, et seq.) (“CVRA”), and demanding that the District change its method of election. Under the CVRA, at-large elections are impermissible if they result in racially polarized voting.  Racially polarized voting is defined as “voting in which there is a difference in the choice of candidates or other electoral choices that are preferred by voters in a protected class, and in the choice of candidates and electoral choices that are preferred by voters in the rest of the electorate.” (Elec. Code, § 14026, subd. (e).) The only election system that provides the District complete protection from a CVRA claim is a “by-trustee area” election system. In a by-trustee area election system, each trustee must reside within the designated trustee area boundary, and is elected only by the voters in that trustee area.

    When a District receives this type of demand letter, the District is given 45 days to demonstrate its intent to transition to by-trustee area elections. If the District does not adopt a resolution signaling its intent to transition from at-large to by-trustee area Board elections within this 45 day “safe harbor window,” the law firm, or any other plaintiff, may file a lawsuit against the District under the CVRA.

    The Board will review its current Board election system and consider adopting a resolution declaring the intent to transition from at-large to by-trustee area Board elections at the February 25 meeting.

    Please see the full meeting agenda and information on how to join the meeting and comment. 

    Why Should the California Voting Rights Act Matter to Me? 

    • SMUHSD provides top tier public education to high school students who reside in the Cities of Foster City, San Mateo, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Millbrae and San Bruno. Approximately 9,000 students attend six highly-rated comprehensive high schools, a special Middle College program in conjunction with the College of San Mateo, an alternative/continuation high school, and a robust Adult School Program.

    • The purpose of the California Voting Rights Act is to prevent an at-large election system from diluting minority voting power, and to protect the ability of minorities to influence the outcome of an election.

    • Maps are drawn to balance the population of the District into five voting areas while enhancing minority voting rights.

    • Once the District transitions to by-trustee area elections, trustees will only be elected by voters living with the same designated trustee area as they do. Trustee area elections also allow Board candidates to run in a smaller area, potentially lowering the cost and other barriers to candidates running for School Board.
    • The District made available an interactive map where members of the public were able to view additional map information regarding SMUHSD, including the jurisdictional area of partner elementary school districts, city boundaries, census blocks, racial and income data, and more.

    • The transition to by-trustee area elections does not impact school attendance boundaries. They impact the areas from which voters will elect School Board trustees.

Maps