Arroyo Grande moving towards district voting system


The Arroyo Grande City Council is expected to sign a resolution on Tuesday evening agreeing to transition from an at-large electoral system to by-district voting by the 2022 election, a move that is intended to appease a lawyer who threatened the city with a lawsuit over the alleged suppression of minority voting rights.

Attorney Robert Goodman authored a letter on behalf of Maria Minicucci to the city of Arroyo Grande alleging its at-large system violates the California Voting Rights Act, and threatening litigation if the city doesn’t voluntarily transition to a district-based election system. Minicucci needs only to prove the existence of “racially polarized voting” to establish liability under the law.

The law prohibits an at-large system that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.

Arroyo Grande is nearly six-square miles in size, split fairly evenly by Highway 101. The four council members and the mayor live on the east side of the highway, with three representatives living within a block of each other.

The city has maintained that racially polarized voting has not occurred in Arroyo Grande. But, because of the high risk of losing in court, city staff is recommending the city comply with the demand of shifting to a by-district system.

City staff is also asking the counsel to delay the transition until 2022 so that the trustee-area boundaries may be drawn based on 2020 Census data, which will not become available until 2021.