Manteca Could Be Switching to City Council Elections By District
March 3, 2021 at 12:27 pm
Manteca may be switching to city council elections by district in the coming years. Currently, both the mayor and the four council members are elected at large.
During the city council meeting on Tuesday, Interim City Manager Lisa Blackmon said that funding for district elections would be incorporated into next year’s budget. A number of California cities have moved away from at-large races in recent years, some of the transitions voluntary, others not.
In 2017, for example, Lodi was threatened with litigation over its at-large elections by a civil rights organization, which argued that the arrangement diluted the power of Latino voters. Under the California Voting Rights Act, people may contest an at-large system if they can demonstrate that it keeps minorities from winning office.
Voting rights lawsuits are often costly and prolonged. In 2008, the city of Modesto paid a $3 million settlement to resolve a multi-year suit concerning its at-large council elections, which were eventually discarded.
Manteca has not yet faced litigation over its at-large elections, but the subject has been brought up before. In 2018, the city ordered an analysis to determine if the council was demographically representative, but no action was taken.
After the 2018 election, the number of nonwhite members on the five-member body increased from one to three. Manteca is roughly 40% white and 40% Latino.
The city has roughly 83,000 people, so the four potential city council districts would have around 21,000 people each. Switching to districts would also reduce the costs of campaigning, as candidates would not have to reach voters citywide.
During the Tuesday meeting, the city council also discussed the new campaign contribution limit of $4,900 imposed by the state. This maximum will be adjusted every other year by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
The council opted not to set its own donation limit, as the city would have to be responsible for enforcing it.