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Geographic representation 38



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  • 1. Citizen Voice and CouncilAccountabilityThe City of Gresham Electoral SystemGeographic Representation
  • 2. Outcome – CitizenUnderstanding Falls Short! Vote failed to meet threshold requirement of 60% to amend GreshamCity Charter. Good news is that over 14,000 voting citizens voted to reinstate votingdistricts. The Chamber of Commerce, the Gresham Outlook and the Oregoniansided with the power elite in endorsing a NO vote and spent well over$30,000 in campaign costs. Those interested in pursuing another vote will be working with regionaland community organizations to over come power elite in control of cityhall and work for a majority of City Councilors to place issue again as aballot measure before the City of Gresham Electorate Those Friends on Richard Strathern’s Facebook and Ballydenham38Twitter accounts can find up to date information on future districtselections scheduled for the Gresham Community!5/13/2013Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections2
  • 3. Introduction What is District Voting? Recently, District Voting for the City of Gresham,Oregon, has received a lot of attention in the mediaand at many neighborhood association meetings A citizen initiative has placed on the November 6ballot a measure 26-141 to restore district electionshas provided information to help our communitybetter understand what District Voting is This presentation gives an overview of district andat-large voting and compares it to the other majorvoting systems at the municipal level5/13/20133Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 4. Constitutional Requirements In Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the U.S. SupremeCourt ruled that the Equal Protection Clause ofthe U. S. Constitution required that each person’svote have equal weight in all elections. Thisdecision established the “one-person/one vote”requirement, whereby apportionment of votingdistricts be based solely on population.5/13/20134Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 5. Chief Justice Earl Warren The Court explicitly rejected the idea that rural orless populated areas could receive enhancedvoting clout simply because of their geographicsize or uniqueness In his majority opinion, the Chief Justiceexplained that: “Legislators represent people, nottrees or acres. Legislators are elected byvoters, not farms or cities or economic interests.”5/13/20135Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 6. Local Government and the Courts Courts have permitted local governments, likeGresham, to elect council members “at-large” witheach legislator being elected by the entire municipaljurisdiction, but requiring that some of the councilmembers live in defined residency areas. Greshamhas been able to avoid this requirement This system ensures that council members havesome geographic diversity while being technicallyconsistent with the “one-person/one-vote”requirement Many are expressing concern that the current “at-large” system is no longer democratic, norrepresentative and needs to be replaced with districtvoting5/13/20136Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 7. Single-Member Districts5/13/2013Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections7 Two types: Residency districts – candidates must reside in thedistrict from which they wish to run, but all thevoters of the city vote for that seat. As with at-largevoting of which this is a variant there is no districtingrequired by 2012 Census True electoral districts – candidates must reside inthe district and only the voters of that district canvote for that seat. The trend in the latter decades ofthe 20th Century was for local governments to gofrom at large elections to elections from trueelectoral districts
  • 8. The Present “Exclusive” At-LargeGresham Electoral System Currently, each Gresham Resident voter is entitled to cast a vote for Positions on City Council, with top votegetter for that position winning a seat on council, this also includes the Mayor. Three Councilors run everyfour years for positions in hope of a plurality of votes to win a seat. Some positions are highlycontested and others are not. Most of thee candidates are relatively unknown by the voting citizen due tosize of the city and a population in excess of 100,000.They are not required to reside in any geographicallydefined residency area and therefore must run the entire city to get elected for those positions. Some thinkthis system was designed so the wealth advantaged could more or less out spend and purchase theposition. Most At-Large Elections vote on candidates by selecting the three top candidates from the full field ofcandidates. Those who designed the Gresham at-large elections purposely confuse its electorate by havingcandidates run city wide for positions which not only dilute voting power but make for easy manipulation bysome waiting till the last minute to file for positions based on cost and perceived competition for thatposition. This action is unknown by the electorate This current system fails to ensure any connection to geographic area based population size in support ofthe traditional democratic constitutional principle of one man one vote. All votes being of equal value. All candidates are from throughout the jurisdiction and must campaign for votes from across the entiremunicipal area (requiring unnecessarily expensive campaigns) and most often do not have the supportof voters in the area in which they reside As a practical matter, the voters from the more wealth advantaged neighborhoods overpower all candidatesbecause of their resources and connection to major city hall special interest more often than not determinewho wins the election. This is how the power elite maintains control. Special interests may even interview all candidates to screen out all but those who supportdevelopment, real-estate and financial institutions which further undermine the common good byfunneling campaign funds to a small well connected elite. This is not conducive to democraticfunctioning government5/13/20138Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 9. The Gresham Challenge Gresham’s population is not evenly distributed.Estimates for 2010 put the population at106,000+ If you compare Rockwood Area withGresham Butte Area you find a remarkabledifference in representation based on population. If Gresham were divided into districts for purposeof electing members, under the “one person/onevote” requirement, Gresham Butte Neighborhoodwould be entitled to have its own council seatonly if the neighborhood had a population of18,500, not the current 5,300.5/13/20139Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections
  • 10. Gresham At-Large Voting 2012Hoax5/13/2013Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections10
  • 11. 5/13/2013Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections11
  • 12. Citizen Understanding of HoaxMajor questions?Will the citizen initiative campaign prevail againstspecial interests and city hall and the hoax perpetuated bythose who designed the election system to control theelectorate for their special needs and economic welfare?Was only late in the campaign after much discussionand argumentation and debate did the realization thatGresham’s form of at-large election system was much worsethan originally thought as people discover that they werevoting for positions and not directly for councilors furtherdiluting their voice and vote way beyond anticipation?Can this information and understanding gap be closed intime to pass measure 26-141?5/13/201312Residency, True Single Member Districts andAt-Large Elections