Turlock reveals three proposals to split city into election districts

04/29/2014 1:33 PM

04/29/2014 9:46 PM

Officials on Tuesday released three options for dividing the city if it switches to district elections for City Council.

All of the proposals call for one of the four districts to have a sizable proportion of Latino voters, 41 percent to 44 percent, in line with the aim of increasing minority representation. This district would cover Turlock’s southwest quadrant in two of the options; the third would place it in and near downtown. No incumbent lives in any of these areas.

The draft maps will be discussed at a pair of public workshops in May. The council could choose a map later this spring and place it before voters in November. If approved, the districts could take effect with the 2016 and 2018 council elections.

The proposed lines affect incumbents in various ways, should they seek re-election in those years. Plan A, for example, would place Bill DeHart and Amy Bublak in District 3, roughly the city’s northeast quadrant. It would leave Steven Nascimento alone in District 4, the northwest, and Forrest White in District 1, the southeast and most of downtown.

The mayor would continue to be chosen at large.

The lines were drafted by National Demographics Corp., a Glendale-based consultant. The council can choose one of the three options or come up with something different, City Manager Roy Wasden said.

The Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County has been urging city councils and school boards to move to district elections as an alternative to costly lawsuits under the California Voting Rights Act. President Maggie Mejia said Tuesday that she has yet to study the Turlock options but was pleased that the city has released them.

“Our intentions were to open their eyes and take action before outside groups force them to take action,” she said.

Modesto voters approved district elections in 2008, after the city failed to get the state law overturned and paid a $3 million settlement to attorneys for the opposition.

Forty-one of the state’s 482 cities have moved from at-large voting, which critics say leaves minorities underrepresented. Ceres, Riverbank, Newman and Waterford are considering the change. The Turlock Unified School District, which stretches well beyond the city, already has switched.

Wasden said Turlock expects to spend up to $60,000 on the effort, about half for the public review process and half for the November election.

Latinos made up 36 percent of Turlock’s population in the 2010 census and 25 percent of the registered voters in the November 2012 election, said Douglas Johnson, president of National Demographics.

More details on the district options:

• Under Plan A, the Latino-influenced District 2 would be south of Fulkerth Road and west of Golden State Boulevard. Latinos would make up 44 percent of the voting-age citizens, a possible boost toward representation on the council.
• Plan B would create a Latino-influenced District 2 out of downtown and other older parts of the city. Latinos would make up 41 percent of the voting-age citizens in the district. Incumbents DeHart and Nascimento would be in District 3, which includes parts of the northwest and southwest. Bublak would be alone in District 4, mostly the northeast, and White would be alone in District 1, roughly between East Canal Drive and West Tuolumne Road.
• Plan C would have the same District 2 as Plan A but would draw the other districts differently than A or B. Bublak and White would be in District 1, along the east side and into downtown. DeHart would be alone in District 3, a part of central Turlock from Taylor Road to part of downtown. Nascimento would be alone in District 4, from the northwest to another part of downtown.

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