The City of Grover Beach is meeting Monday night to discuss transforming the way elections are done.
The meeting will be held via Zoom instead of in-person after Grover Beach saw a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The discussion will revolve around dividing Grover Beach into four different districts to vote on city council members based on where they live instead of as a city as a whole.
The transition to districts in the City of Grover Beach started after a community member sued the city, saying the way City Council elections were held didn’t represent everyone.
“Equal representation on the City Council under the California Voting Rights Act," said City Manager Matthew Bronson.
Grover Beach could have fought the lawsuit, but instead decided to switch to district-based elections.
Bronson said, “We are using a demographic and communication consultant because this is work that we as city staff aren't in a position to do ourselves.”
The City Council will get a final say on the map. City leaders say there is no conflict of interest in doing it this way.
“We felt that, given the need to recruit other individuals to be on this advisory body when we have a challenge in finding individuals for our current advisory bodies, our City Council was in a position to make the decision fairly and equitably for the districts,” Bronson said, adding that it would be difficult to compile an independent commission. Residents can submit ideas of their own for the maps but the City has to adopt the final map by April 2022.
The first district election in Grover Beach will happen in November 2022.
When drawing the boundaries, the City must keep in mind where children in neighborhoods go to school, landmarks like major roads, housing and more.
People in that district will elect a representative who lives in the same area and, according to the City, will understand their unique perspective.
“Part of the transition is that individuals will be elected by district, and they will undoubtedly have a particular focus and interest in what happens within their particular district, and that will be their constituents that they'll be directly representing," Bronson said.
But there are restrictions on how boundaries can be drawn and each of the four districts has to have nearly equal populations.
Bronson said, “by state and federal law, we can't explicitly use race or political party as factors in creating districts.”
The City decided to switch to this election system back in 2019 but waited to put it into motion until 2022.
The timing was due to the 2020 U.S. Census. “So that we can really fine tune the creation of the districts based on the most accurate census data available," Bronson said.
The City will select a preferred map in February 2022 but has to adopt the final one in April.
Monday night's meeting starts at 6 p.m.