An educational forum on Measure T, the ballot measure that would change the way Merced City Council members are elected, will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 23. It is being sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Merced County.
The forum will be held in the Council Chambers of the Merced Civic Center, 678 W. 18th St. It also will be livestreamed on the City’s website with a link at www.cityofmerced.org.
Panelists include Dr. Jessica Trounstine, a professor of political science at UC Merced and David Soldani, an attorney at Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo. Interim Merced City Attorney Cristina Talley will be the moderator.
On the Nov. 4 ballot, Measure T will change City Council elections from an at-large voting system to a district-based voting system. Currently all voters in the City can cast a ballot for anyone running for Council. Under district elections, only voters living in the district would be able to voter for candidates running for office in that district. The Mayor’s seat would continue to be “at-large” so all voters in the City would cast votes for that office.
Measure T would also require the City to prepare a map of the six City Council Districts. A panel of residents, with the help of a mapping specialist, would prepare a plan to divide the City into six Districts for the City Council to consider approving.
The Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund approached the City in spring saying it was contacted by several voters who said the “at-large” elections violated the California Voting Rights Act. The City Attorney analyzed the claims and the City Council agreed the claims had merit. The settlement agreement with MALDEF and the voters includes putting a change in the City’s Charter on the ballot that would require district elections in Merced.
During the forum Talley will explain Measure T, what the City settlement agreement includes and go over the wording of the Measure T Charter amendment.
Soldani will review the California Voting Rights Act, its purpose and the limitations on the type of districts allowed under the Act. He also will review the case law regarding district representation. He also will discuss if other types of Council districts meet the requirements of the California Voting Rights Act.
Trounstine will talk about research on the differences between at-large and district elections and the types of candidates who win. She also will explain what the research says about the policy making under the two systems and discuss polarized voting as it may pertain to Merced.
There will be time during the Forum for questions from the public.