What is the City of Folsom’s current election system?
The City of Folsom currently has an at-large election system, which means that registered Folsom voters elect the five City Councilmembers regardless of where the candidates reside in the city.
What are by-district elections?
In a by-district election system, the City of Folsom would be divided into five districts, and each voter within a district may cast one vote for a candidate residing within that district seeking election.
Why is the City of Folsom considering by-district elections?
In February of 2020, the city received a petition from the Folsom Area Democratic Club and numerous Folsom residents to begin the process to change City Council elections from at-large to by-district. In October of 2020, the city received a demand letter from attorney Scott Rafferty, representing Neighborhood Elections Now, the Bay Area Voting Rights Initiative, the Folsom Area Democratic Club, and a number of registered voters in Folsom having legal standing to sue the city under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), which is a prerequisite under the CVRA prior to filing a lawsuit.
Public agencies can be sued under the CVRA when their at-large election system is alleged to have impaired a protected class's ability to elect candidates of their choice or their ability to influence the outcome of an election. “Protected class” is defined in CVRA as a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group. The threshold for plaintiffs to win a CVRA lawsuit is extremely low; no proof of discriminatory intent or past history of discrimination is necessary for a plaintiff to prevail. Thus far, no public agency has successfully defended a CVRA lawsuit, even after spending millions of their taxpayer dollars defending the lawsuit.
Folsom is among hundreds of cities, special districts, and school districts throughout the state to receive CVRA demand letters. Under the CVRA, the city has an opportunity to voluntarily transition to by-district elections and avoid a costly lawsuit.
What did the Folsom City Council decide?
On January 12, 2021, the Folsom City Council conducted a public meeting and considered a proposed Resolution of Intention to transition to by-district elections. After hearing input and feedback from members of the public, the City Council continued the matter off calendar and directed a public information initiative to educate the community about CVRA and the issue of by-district elections.
At its Tuesday, July 27, 2021 meeting, the Folsom City Council adopted a resolution of intent that starts the process to transition the city from at-large elections to by-district elections.
How have other cities responded to the threat of litigation under the CVRA?
California cities, special districts, and school districts that have transitioned to by-district elections have done so largely due to legal challenges brought under the CVRA, including the cities of Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, and Roseville, and the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. The San Juan Unified School District is currently in a lawsuit filed under the CVRA. To date, no public agency has successfully defended a legal challenge to remain in an at-large voting system.
What are the potential fiscal impacts of a CVRA legal challenge?
If the City of Folsom does not transition to a by-district election system and loses the lawsuit, the court is required to implement by-district elections and award attorney’s fees and litigation expenses to the plaintiff.
The costs to defend a CVRA challenge can be tremendously high, in some cases well into several millions of taxpayer dollars.
A few examples:
- Santa Monica: $5+ million
- Palmdale: $4.7 million
- Modesto: $3 million
- Highland: $1.1 million
- Whittier: $1 million
- Santa Barbara: $600,000
- Tulare Hospital District: $500,000
- Compton Unified School District: $200,000
If the City Council decides to transition to by-district elections, how many districts will be considered in Folsom?
If the City Council decides to make the transition, the Council will consider maps that include five Council districts.
How will creating voting districts affect me?
Under a by-district election system, registered voters in the City of Folsom will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate for City Council that lives in their district. Registered voters will not be able to vote for councilmember candidates from districts in which they do not reside.
No councilmember’s term will be cut short; all current councilmembers will be allowed to serve out their 4-year term. However, when a councilmember’s term ends, and that councilmember resides in the same district as an incumbent whose term is not yet over, that councilmember will not be able to run for City Council until the incumbent occupying the seat for that district is up for re-election.
What are the criteria for creating election districts?
District boundaries must be substantially equal in population, and to the extent practicable, the City Council is required to use the criteria in the following order of priority when creating districts:
- Council districts shall be geographically contiguous. Areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous. Areas that are separated by water and not connected by a bridge, tunnel, or regular ferry service are not contiguous.
- The geographic integrity of any local neighborhood or local community of interest should be respected in a manner that minimizes division. A “community interest” is a population that shares common social or economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. Communities of interest do not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.
- Council district boundaries should be easily identifiable and understandable by residents. To the extent practicable, council districts shall be bounded by natural and artificial barriers, by streets, or by the boundaries of the city.
- Council districts shall be drawn to encourage geographic compactness in a manner that nearby areas of population are not bypassed in favor of more distant populations.
How can I participate in the decision-making process?
The city encourages all residents to participate in forming future Council districts. The process for establishing districts is controlled by federal and state laws, including data from the federal Census. The city is required to identify the number of districts, adopt a map, determine the election sequencing, and hold a minimum of five public hearings. Dates of the five public hearings have been announced.
It is of utmost importance that Folsom residents participate and provide feedback during the public hearings on the composition of proposed election districts for City Council seats.
If the City Council decides to make the transition, when will the new City Council districts take effect?
The city anticipates that the by-district election system for electing future Folsom City Councilmembers would begin with the November 2022 General Municipal Election.
What are districting and redistricting?
Districting and redistricting are the regular process of drawing and adjusting the lines of voting districts in accordance with population shifts. In California, public agencies with by-district elections must draw or divide the lines of their districts every 10 years once the results of the U.S. census are released so that each district is substantially equal in population. This ensures that each elected official represents about the same number of constituents.
All district lines must be reviewed to meet strict requirements for population equality, voting rights protections, and in accordance with the California FAIR MAPS Act. With the California Voting Rights Act, more than 500 jurisdictions in California must redistrict in 2021-2022.
Why do district maps matter to me?
District maps determine which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into districts for purposes of electing City Councilmembers. The City Council will seek public input in selecting the next district map for electing Councilmembers. You have an opportunity to share how you think district boundaries should be drawn to best represent your community either during the public hearings or by submitting comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do the existing City Council districts look like?
The City Council initiated the transition process to switch from at-large to by-district elections, starting with the 2022 Municipal Election, and therefore there is currently no City Council district in the City of Folsom. City Council districts will be formed after a district map is selected and adopted by the City Council following a robust public hearing process.
What criteria will our City Council use when drawing district lines?
1. Federal Laws
- Equal Population (based on total population of residents as determined by the most recent federal decennial census and adjusted by the State to reassign incarcerated persons to the last known place of residence)
- Federal Voting Rights Act
- No Racial Gerrymandering
2. California Criteria for Cities (to the extent practicable and in the following order of priority)
- Geographically contiguous (areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous. Areas that are separated by water and not connected by a bridge, tunnel, or ferry service are not contiguous.
- Undivided neighborhoods and “communities of interest” (socio-economic geographic areas that should be kept together for purposes of its effective and fair representation)
- Easily identifiable boundaries
- Compact (Do not bypass one group of people to get to a more distant group of people.)
Prohibited: “Shall not favor or discriminate against a political party.”
3. Other Traditional Districting and Redistricting Principles
- Minimize voters shifted to different election years
- Respect voters’ choices/continuity in office
- Future population growth
- Preserving the core of existing districts
What are Communities of Interest?
A community of interest is a “contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.”
Below are useful excerpts from the Local Government Redistricting Toolkit by Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus (2020).
Communities of interest are the overlapping sets of neighborhoods, networks, and groups that share interests, views, cultures, histories, languages, and values and whose boundaries can be identified on a map.
The following elements help define communities of interest:
- Shared interests in schools, housing, community safety, transit, health conditions, land use, environmental conditions, and/or other issues;
- Common social and civic networks, including churches, mosques, temples, homeowner associations, and community centers, and shared use of community spaces, like parks and shopping centers;
- Racial and ethnic compositions, cultural identities, and households that predominantly speak a language other than English;
- Similar socio-economic status, including but not limited to income, home-ownership, and education levels;
- Shared political boundary lines from other jurisdictions, such as school districts, community college districts, and water districts.
How will the City of Folsom notify the public about districting?
The city will reach out to the public through city newsletter mailers, city social media outlets, and local media to publicize the districting process. Our public hearings will be provided in applicable languages if residents submit a request 72 hours in advance prior to a meeting to email@example.com.
The city will notify the public about districting hearings and workshops, post maps online before adoption, and maintain this dedicated web page for all relevant information about the districting process.
How can I get involved?
Share your specific thoughts, draw a map, or attend an upcoming workshop to get involved.
- Submit written testimony about the process or a specific map to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Click here to see the calendar of workshops and public hearings where you can speak about the process or a specific map.
- Click here for information on drawing and submitting maps.
At the hearings and workshops, we want you to:
- Share your story
- Define your neighborhood or community of interest
- Explain why districting or a particular district map is important or relevant to your community
- Get the tools you need to draw a map of one district or of all five districts
- Share your opinions of the draft maps
- Talk to your neighbors and local organizations
What do the acronyms and categories mean on the demographic sheets?
Common acronyms demographic categories:
- NH: Non-Hispanic
- VAP: Voting age population
- CVAP: Citizen Voting Age Population
- CVRA: California Voting Rights Act
- FAIR MAPS Act: Fair And Inclusive Redistricting for Municipalities and Political Subdivisions
- NDC: National Demographics Corporation (the specialized firm hired by the city to facilitate public engagement, provide demographic data, and produce the maps for consideration by the public and the City Council)
Do I have to submit a completed map?
No, you do not need to submit a fully completed map. You can draw boundaries for only your neighborhood or only a portion of the city. It is helpful if you submit written commentary with your map describing why the particular neighborhood or area should be kept together in a single district.
Can I submit more than one map?
Yes, you may submit more than one map. Please draw as many maps as you like. We suggest you submit only your top two-three preferred maps to assist the City Council in focusing on the map that best represents your community. However, there is no limit.
What happens to the drafted maps?
After you submit your map, the demographic consultants will generate the population and other demographic details for your proposed map. Maps can be viewed on the Draft Maps page or on the Interactive Review Map. Submitted maps are considered public records.
What is sequencing?
As the city transitions from at-large to by-district elections, the City Council must set a “sequence of elections” so that the terms of the Councilmembers remain staggered according to the city charter, with three Councilmembers elected for a four-year term in 2022 and every four years thereafter, and two Councilmembers elected for a four-year term in 2024 and every four years thereafter.
Here’s an overview of the sequencing process and requirements:
- When the City Council will adopt final district map, it will identify which three districts will be up for election in 2022 and which two districts will be up for election in 2024.
- In a district sequenced to be up for election in 2022 or 2024 that has no currently serving Councilmember, any eligible registered voter in that district may run for election in that district.
- A Councilmember whose term ends in 2022 and who resides in a district sequenced for the 2022 election can run for election in 2022 to represent that district.
- A Councilmember whose term ends in 2024 and who resides in a district sequenced for the 2024 election can run for election in 2024 to represent that district.
- A Councilmember whose term ends in 2022 and who resides in a district sequenced for the 2024 election will leave office at the end of his or her term in 2022 and can run for election when that district is up for election in 2024.
- A Councilmember whose term ends in 2024 and who resides in a district sequenced for the 2022 election has the option to serve out his or her term representing the city at-large until 2024 or to run for election in 2022 to represent that district for a new four-year term. If the Councilmember chooses to run in 2022 and wins a new four-year term representing the district. The City Council will fill the vacancy for the remaining two years of that Councilmember’s at-large term by appointment or special election.
Whether a district is sequenced to be up for election in 2022 or 2024 impacts whether an incumbent may run for election or reelection in districts with more than one current Councilmember. Click here to see the possible options in that scenario.
Where can I learn more about redistricting?
Online publications and guides to redistricting:
- From MALDEF, the NAACP and the Asian Justice Center
- From the Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- From the Brennan Center
- From the League of Women Voters
- From the California Independent Redistricting Commission FAQs