Proposed bill will split city in two
The Santa Clara
May 17, 2018
The City of Santa Clara has not had a person of color on the city council since 1951 and members of the community are demanding change.
Measure A, a charter amendment to establish two districts within the city and implement ranked-choice voting, plays a major role in this amendment.
“Some people would argue it’s just reshuffling the deck,” said Dr. James Lai, a professor of ethnic studies and political science at Santa Clara.
People of color make up over half of the city’s population, with AsianAmericans accounting for one-third.
According to Lai, Santa Clara is an outlier when it comes to levels of diversity in the city council.
If Measure A passes and the city charter is amended, a district line will split the city into two large districts, mainly along El Camino Real.
Lai detailed the diversity that can be seen during a drive down that road.
“Within a mile, you’ll see Korean immigrant businesses, Vietnamese immigrant businesses, Latino immigrant businesses,” Lai said. “This is what has made Santa Clara what it is today.”
Immigrant communities will be divided between each district in the process.
Ranked-choice voting, a system that both San Francisco and Oakland use, will also be implemented if Measure A passes.
With ranked-choice voting, each district would elect three council members by ranking them due to preference. Candidates can represent the district in which they reside.
The addition of this type of voting will encourage interest groups or elected officials to reach out to a broader constituency in order to be elected into office.
“Because now you’re not just trying to get first-place votes, you’re also trying to get second or thirdplace votes,” Lai said.
Ranked-choice voting would also potentially save the city money. If a primary election necessitates a runoff election, the runoff election and possible subsequent elections would cost the city additional funds.
In ranked-choice voting, if one candidate does not win at least 50 percent of the votes, the votes are then redistributed until one candidate reaches half the vote.
However, if a voter’s preferred top three candidates are not properly filled in on the ballot, the ballot is discounted and disregarded—a component of the new system that has met some opposition.
“That is arguably a twenty-first century way of disenfranchisement, particularly of immigrant communities that have a lot of different barriers when it comes to voting,” Lai said.
Many immigrants in the City of Santa Clara have limited English proficiency and are uncomfortable with materials not in their native language.
There are currently no ballot translations offered for the city.
The Santa Clara Democratic Party previously endorsed Measure A, but the endorsement was revoked at a recent meeting. If Measure A is passed, Lai predicts there will be an immediate lawsuit.
“It’s going to be decided by the court in terms of what’s fair and what’s going to move us forward,” Lai said.
This election is a special election, so students who are not registered in the state of California can still have their voices heard. The deadline to register to vote in the special election is May 21. The vote on Measure A will take place on June 5.
Contact Meghan McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.