On February 16, 2018, a letter was sent to the Office of the City Clerk stating that the City of Elk Grove is currently in violation of California Voter Rights Act of 2001. The letter came from Kevin Shenkman, an attorney from Malibu, California representing Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. Most noteworthy, Shenkman has previously sued Palmdale, California for the same violation. He won that case and cost Palmdale millions of dollars. Yet, Elk Grove City Council stands by the from-district voting.
Currently, Elk Grove uses a from-district voting system which means representatives are from a specified district and are voted in by the entire body of voters. This is also referred to as at-large representation. The letter states that Elk Grove needs to switch to a by-district voting system meaning that representative are elected only by voters in a defined geographical area.
Civil Rights Groups In Favor of By-District Elections
In the public comment portion of the City Council meeting, many civil rights groups came out in support of the by-district elections. The groups represented at the meeting were ACLU, American Sikh Public Affairs Association, League of United Latin American Citizens, and NAACP. All the groups spoke out in favor of the changes. ACLU representative Dennessa Atiles said “More than 40 years ago, the ACLU took a position in favor of by-district voting, recognizing at-large voting as a civil liberties violation of the Voting Rights Act; we stand steadfastly by that position today.”
City Council Stance
As of the Elk Grove City Council meeting on March 14, the current city council members Steven Detrick, Pat Hume, Stephanie Nguyen, and Darren Suen stand with the from-district voting system. They say that this allows them to help the town as a whole. Mayor Steve Ly was formerly against by-district elections but in 2016 he came out in favor of them. Important to note, Mayor Ly said he would be willing to put the issue on the agenda for a future meeting to discuss again. However, the rest of the City Council had no response to him. It is clear that there is not a unanimous consensus among the the City Council. The City Council meets again on March 28, 2018.