City Council Elections: At Large or by District?

South San Francisco, CA   September 25, 2017

In recent times we have had discussions about our South San Francisco City Council elections and how our City is best served, by elections at large or has the time come for us to vote by district. {At-large is a designation for members of a governing body who are elected or appointed to represent the whole membership of the body (for example, a city, state or province, nation, club or association), rather than a subset of that membership. At-large voting is in contrast to voting by electoral districts. Wiki}

Michael Harris is one South San Francisco neighbor who has pursued this issue and has provided the following information regarding an upcoming meeting that will cover various election options and encourages neighbors to attend and to think about the possible need for district elections in the future. If this is something of interest to more South City residents we’d do well asking the presenters, Jennifer Pae and Steve Chessin,to host a meeting locally.  Please feel free to share your comments on this idea.

City Council Elections−How can we make them better?
Menlo Park has been threatened with a lawsuit over how it selects city council members, and the city of Santa Clara has also been sued. Whether your city elects members at large like Menlo Park, or uses a numbered seat system like Santa Clara, did you ever think about how the system could be changed to help election outcomes better reflect the will of the voters? 
Learn what options exist for Menlo Park and other cities to elect city councils that are more representative of their populations. We’ll discuss pros and cons of district elections, and other election methods such as ranked choice voting and single transferable vote, so we can obtain election results that improve democracy and provide better representation. 
Our presenters are Jennifer Pae of FairVote (FairVote.org) and Steve Chessin of Californians for Electoral Reform (cfer.org). Event sponsored by FairVote, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization championing electoral reforms to give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.
Date: Saturday 10/7/17 
Time: 2 – 4 PM 
Location: Onetta Harris Community Center Multipurpose Room 100 Terminal Ave, Menlo Park, CA 
RSVP appreciated at bit.ly/fvmenlopark , or for more information please call Margaret Okuzumi at 650-269-4109

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About FairVote 

Our Mission: FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.

What We Do: FairVote has a proven record since 1992 as a nonpartisan trailblazer that advances and wins bold electoral reforms at the local, state, and national level through strategic research, communications and collaboration. Today we are the driving force behind advancing ranked choice voting and multi-winner legislative districts that together will open up our elections to better choices, fairer representation and more civil campaigns.

About CfER
  • The primary purpose of this organization is to promote the implementation of election methods such as instant runoff voting and forms of proportional representation.
  • We are a nonpartisan organization with members from across the political spectrum.
  • We often work with FairVote – the Center for Voting and Democracy, a national organization with similar aims.
  • CfER was founded in May of 1993, with 23 people signing up. We now have several hundred members and several local chapters.

Other pages on this site better capture our current efforts, but prior accomplishments include:

  • We participated in successful campaigns in 2004 and 2006 to bring Instant Runoff Voting to Berkeley and Oakland.
  • We helped run a successful campaign in 2002 to bring Instant Runoff Voting to San Francisco.
  • We assisted with a successful ballot measure campaign to enable use of Instant Runoff Voting in Santa Clara County in 1998.
  • We ran a campaign in 1996 in SF to adopt proportional representation there. We lost, but we see it as the opening salvo in the quest for PR.
  • We have campaigned for bills that have passed the legislature (none yet signed into law) to make it easier for cities to adopt Instant Runoff Voting.
  • We helped develop and run the first elections of the Local Advisory Board of KPFA, the nation’s oldest community-sponsored radio station.
  • We frequently send speakers to radio shows and other community events to spread the word about PR. We have also sponsored workshops on election reform.
  • CfER members who are college students have helped their student governments adopt IRV and Choice Voting.
  • CfER members have contributed to the development of software, ballot design, tallying, and auditing procedures for ranked-choice voting methods.

2 comments for “City Council Elections: At Large or by District?

  1. Rose G
    September 26, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I welcome whatever gets this council out of governing and wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars with the exception of perhaps one member. The city council delivers, diminished quality of our life to our bi-coastal city bringing /encouraging traffic, airplane noise and high cost of living. This is not governing, its called being out of touch. Its high time for new, fresh ideas, and new energy to SSF. Maybe then the voters will feel represented long enough to vote.

  2. Rose G
    September 26, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    District elections would make each council member responsible to the community they represent and that could actually be a good thing. Make them work for their votes.

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