Voters should — finally — put Santa Clara redistricting issue to rest

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Santa Clara should not have wasted four years and $6 million of taxpayer money on an irresponsible legal battle fighting a switch to election of City Council members by district.

But the city’s petty politics too often rules over common sense.

Now voters will have the opportunity to formalize in the City Charter what a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ordered the city to do starting with the 2018 elections: comply with the California Voting Rights Act and create six districts for City Council elections.

Santa Clara voters should approve Measure D on the June 7 ballot. In just two election cycles, we’ve already seen in the city how district elections can bolster the diversity of the council makeup.

Thankfully, there is no formal opposition to the measure.

The issue arose in 2017 when five Asian Americans from Santa Clara filed a lawsuit saying that the city’s longstanding at-large elections violated the California Voting Rights Act, which is designed to ensure the desires of minority groups are proportionately represented. At the time, even though Santa Clara’s population was approaching 40% Asian American, no Asian American had ever been elected to the City Council since its City Charter adoption in 1951.

The judge agreed with the plaintiffs. The city appealed but eventually threw in the towel in 2021, agreeing to pay about $4.5 million for the plaintiffs’ legal fees on top of the $1.5 million the city spent for its outside legal counsel. Meanwhile, complying with the judge’s order, the city held district elections in 2018 and 2022. As a result, today three of the six council members are Asian.

Voters now have the chance to ensure the charter matches the court order so that the diversity of the council represents the diversity of the city. They should approve Measure D.



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