CVRA By-Trustee Area Election

  • School District Map with text that reads: By-Trustee Area ElectionsBackground

    Board members in the San Mateo Union High School District 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 No. 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. Voters would only vote for one seat on the school board.

    Process and Next Steps

    The District will hold the following public hearings related to the transition to By-Trustee Area Elections where members of the public are encouraged to attend and make public comments on proposed maps and determine how boundaries are created:

    January 20, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Map Review Hearing #1. The demographer will present proposed maps, and the District will hold a hearing for public consideration.  

    February 10, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Map Review Hearing #2. The District will hold a second hearing to allow the public to consider the proposed maps. 

    February 24, 2022 - Regular Board Meeting - Final Map Adoption Hearing. The District will hold a public hearing to adopt the final resolution. 

    Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

    Please note - trustee-area boundaries will not affect existing school attendance boundaries. 

    Past Public Hearings

    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 CorporationA recording of the meeting may be found on the District's website. The presentation begins around 1:28:00

    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 will 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. 

    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.