Electing candidates through voting districts has pros and cons. I believe it is imperative for the residents of San Clemente to be able to vote on this issue and decide for themselves how they wish to elect City leadership.
District elections generally include better representation because the constituent pool is smaller, and campaigns cost a lot less, which makes it easier for more people to run for office. District elections also promote diversity, geographical and otherwise. Certain areas of San Clemente, such as Talega and Forester Ranch, have historically been unrepresented on the City Council. Districting would promote diversity on the City Council and likely to City Council appointed commissions such as the Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, and other commissions.
District voting limits the ability of City residents to vote concerning all City Council seats. Instead of voting on all open seats, under district voting residents would be limited under the current proposal to voting solely on the seat for their respective districts. District elections also raise concerns that City Council members will be more concerned about their respective districts than the city as a whole.
However, these drawbacks of district elections can be addressed while also promoting the diversity benefits of district elections. For example, some cities hold “primaries” by district such that one person is nominated in each district. The nominated candidates then run in a general election for the open seats and everyone in the City gets to vote. This two-step “district” election system promotes geographic diversity while also maintaining the ability of all residents to vote for the candidates every election cycle.
Other ideas such as “cumulative voting” have also been adopted in cities such as Mission Viejo. Under a cumulative voting system, an elector may cast as many votes as there are seats up for election. If, for example, five seats are up for election, a voter may cast five votes for a single candidate or distribute his or her votes among several candidates. The candidates with the highest number of votes are elected. This system also promotes diversity while allowing all residents to vote each year. Mission Viejo recently became the first City to adopt this voting method.
Let’s find the best solution for San Clemente, one which promotes representation for all residents.