District Based Elections

On March 28, 2019, the City of Buellton approved a transition from at-large to by-district elections, with the mayor to be elected at-large. The final map of City Council Districts can be viewed here (when completed).

With district-based elections, each of four Council Members will be elected by voters within that candidate’s district, while the Mayor will be elected by all voters within the City. The City Council selected districts ___ and ___ to hold elections in November, 2022. Districts ___ and ___ will hold elections in November, 2024, along with the Mayor-elect in general.

This decision came after significant community outreach and engagement, including website information, online mapping tools, public participation tools, newspaper advertising, public hearings, the Buellton BUZZ, and social media posts.

Key Documents

2022 Election Q&A Presentation – _______________
Second Reading/Adoption of Ordinance & Staff Report to Change City’s Electoral System to By-District Elections – February 24, 2022
First Reading of Ordinance & Staff Report to Change City’s Electoral System to By-District Elections – January 27, 2022

Public Hearing #5 Staff Report – March 10, 2022 (Second Reading)

Attachments
Draft District Maps
Public Correspondence

Public Hearing #4 Staff Report – February 24, 2022 (First Reading)

Attachments
Draft District Maps
Election Sequencing Memo
Public Correspondence

Public Hearing #3 Staff Report – January 27, 2022

Attachments
Draft District Maps
Election Sequencing Options
Public Correspondence

Public Hearing #2 Staff Report – July 8, 2021

Attachments
Revised Timeline
List of Locations with Public Participation Kits
Public Correspondence

Public Hearing #1 Staff Report – June 10, 2021

Attachments
CVRA Public Hearing Timeline
Public Correspondence
Elections Code Sections 23000 – 23003
Settlement Agreement – April 22, 2019
Staff Report of Intention to Transition to District-Based Elections – March 28, 2019
CVRA Demand Letter – September 28, 2018

Background

At its March 28, 2019 Council meeting, the City Council agreed to transition from Buellton’s existing at-large elections, to district-based elections and entered into a settlement agreement with Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) on April 22, 2019.

Most California cities and other public agencies conduct elections on either an at-large basis (each representative is elected by vote of the entire voting population) or district-based basis (the jurisdiction is divided into separate districts and each voter within a district may cast one vote, only for a candidate seeking election within that district).

Buellton has traditionally utilized the at-large election system for Council Members and an elected Mayor. The Vice Mayor is chosen by a consensus of the City Council on an annual basis.

A key reason that the City is proceeding with district-based elections is the threat of significant litigation. Most of the California cities that have transitioned in the last few years have done so as a result of legal challenges brought under the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). In 2018, Buellton received a Notice of Violation of the CVRA from a Southern California law firm, which has also sent such notices to dozens of other cities. Faced with potentially hundreds-of-thousands, or even millions of dollars in legal fees and damages (as some cities have experienced), Buellton decided to voluntarily proceed with transitioning to district-based elections.

It’s important to note that an allegation of a CVRA violation does not imply that the City or its Council is acting in a discriminatory manner; rather it is an allegation that the overall electoral system within the City is resulting in the disenfranchisement of minority voters. The intent of district-based elections is to give all legitimate groups, particularly minority groups, a better chance of being fairly represented on a City Council.