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City seeks input on draft voting district maps

Public poll split between Maps A and C

City seeks input on draft voting district maps


POSTED May 8, 2014 8:17 p.m.

After releasing three possible plans mapping Turlock’s potential voting districts as the City prepares to vote on switching to a district-based system to elect future City Councilmembers, the City of Turlock is seeking input from its residents on how the districts should be formed.  

In a  meeting held on Wednesday at the Turlock Public Safety center — the first of the two special meetings scheduled for this month — Turlock officials and residents joined together to discuss the potential voting district maps created to ensure equal representation in local government by drawing districts balancing the City’s populations.

By switching to by-district elections, Turlock hopes to avoid expensive lawsuits from the various minority-advocate groups suing several cities throughout the state with at-large voting systems for violating the California Voting Rights Act. Such litigation has often resulted in million-dollar settlements and pricey attorney fees for California cities, including the $3.7 million spent by the City of Modesto for a similar case.

Since Turlock has a large Latino population but has not elected any Latino councilmembers, Turlock City Manager Roy Wasden says that City could be considered in violation of the California Voting Rights Act, and will likely be sued if a by-district election system is not adopted soon.

Explaining the process of switching to district elections further was National Demographics Corporation President Doug Johnson, who has been working alongside the City of Turlock to develop the three proposed voting district maps — Map A, B, and C.

Using Turlock’s existing lines such as the railroad lines and major roads as borders in most places, Johnson explained that each proposed map breaks the City into four quadrants, each with populations of approximately 17,000 people.

The most straightforward approach, Map A, seeks to keep each quadrant as compact as possible.

Map B focuses on City landmarks such as keeping California State University and the adjacent student housing within the same quadrant, while another would include all of Downtown Turlock.

Map C would see that all four quadrants share a portion of Downtown Turlock, as it would allow each Councilmember to have a stake in downtown-related decisions due to its significance and impacts on the entire community.   

After reviewing each proposed map, those in attendance were asked to rank the proposed maps, voting on their preferred option. Maps A and C gained the most support with 23 votes each, while Map B only received four.

According to Johnson, the votes were only used to help the City better determine which maps had higher public approval. A similar vote will also be taken during the second special meeting next week.

If unable to attend the next special meeting, feedback on the proposed maps can be provided online at the City of Turlock’s website where the maps and feedback forms can be found on the homepage at www.turlock.ca.us.

The second special meeting on by-district elections and the proposed voting district maps will be held at 6 p.m. on May 15 at the Pitman High School cafeteria located at 2525 W. Christoffersen Pkwy.

During the meeting, Turlock residents will also be given the opportunity to discuss critical city issues such as roadways and transportation, public safety services, water, and more.

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