FOLSOM, Calif. (KTXL) — The Folsom City Council is meeting in late July to resume talks about changing the way residents elect their city councilmembers.
Since 1946, Folsom residents have chosen their city councilmembers through at-large elections, meaning they vote for councilmembers regardless of where each candidate lives in the city, according to the Folsom City Manager’s office.
Since February of 2020, the City of Folsom has received numerous signed petitions requesting city leaders change the councilmember election process from at-large elections to by-district elections, where the city is divided into five districts and each voter may cast one vote for candidates living in each district, similar to how residents in Citrus Heights, Elk Grove and Roseville elect their city councils.
Supporters of the effort say Folsom’s use of at-large elections creates a barrier for minority groups within Folsom to be represented.
“The City of Folsom is racially and ethnically diverse. Roughly 13% of the population is Asian, 11% is Hispanic and 5% is African-American,” the Folsom Area Democratic Club wrote in a letter to Folsom city leaders back in February of 2020. “Unfortunately, the City’s diversity is not reflected in the current City Council, nor has it been reflected in prior City Councils.”
In October of 2020, the attorney for the petitioners informed the city of possible legal action stating the use of at-large elections has “impaired the ability of Folsom’s Latino and Asian minorities, who often vote as a coalition, to influence the outcome of city council elections.”
The City of Folsom was served a lawsuit this past January alleging the city’s at-large elections are in violation of the California Voting Rights Act based on those allegations.
According to the Folsom City Manager, “there has been no finding that the City of Folsom has violated the CVRA or any other law protecting Folsom residents’ right to vote. However, proof of discriminatory intent or historic discrimination is not required for a plaintiff to prevail in a CVRA lawsuit.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and executive orders by Gov. Gavin Newsom suspending CVRA-related deadlines, the city had to put on hold any further city council discussions about the potential election changes, according to the city manager.
But on January 12, 2021, city leaders began to educate Folsom residents about the issue through an informational webpage and sending mailers to the city’s 30,836 households.
The city manager says they received 474 responses from residents in regards to those efforts.
- 295 in favor of at-large elections
- 154 in favor of by-district elections
- 25 undecided
With Newsom’s orders lifted this month, the Folsom City Council has scheduled a meeting on Tuesday, July 27, to resume talks surrounding the issue, and residents are encouraged to participate.