In March of 2016, a lawsuit was brought against the City of Santa Clara challenging the at-large electoral system used to elect its City Councilmembers. The lawsuit alleges that Santa Clara’s election system violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. In April, the City Council directed the creation of a Charter Review Committee to review the City’s election method and to make a recommendation for electing members to the City Council.
FairVote California provided research and analysis to the community and to the Charter Review Committee about the effectiveness of various election methods. Over time, the Committee considered at-large elections, various district plans, and determined that Santa Clara was too diverse and integrated for single-member district elections.
According to the 2010 Census, the City’s population is approximately 116,468, of which approximately 22,589 (19.4%) are Hispanic or Latino and 43,889 (37.7%) are Asian-American. According to the latest Citizen Voting Age Population (“CVAP”) 2011-2015 data available from the American Community Survey, the City of Santa Clara has a CVAP of approximately 69,886, of which, approximately 10,678 (15.4%) are Hispanic or Latino and 21,343 (30.7%) are Asian-American.This is important to reference because the city’s population and electorate are not currently reflected in the City Council.
A Fair Plan for Asian American and Latino Voters
FairVote California studied and assessed a hypothetical two-district plan. We found that the Asian American CVAP could range from 28.9% to 32.5% within each of the two districts (3.9-7.5% points beyond a threshold to elect one seat). Therefore, Asian American voters would have the power to elect one (1) seat per district, for a total of two (2) seats.
If voters were to elect three City Councilmembers at-large using a fair representation system, like ranked choice voting, the Asian American community can elect their candidate of choice because the Asian CVAP is 30.7% and the threshold to win is 25%+1.
Latino CVAP ranges from 14.9% to 15.8% under the proposed plan, and a candidate could receive more than half (12.5%) of its support from Latino voters. If Santa Clara candidates build a coalition of support that include Latino voters, Latinos could make up more than half of the threshold necessary to elect a representative, thereby becoming an even more important voting bloc.
We are advocating for adoption of RCV for Santa Clara and support the effort to to provide education to voters.