Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Letter To Assemblymember Juan Arambula

This letter was sent on May 25, 2010 to California Assemblymember Juan Arambula, author of the California Voting Rights Act.

To: Assemblymember Juan Arambula
From: Ryan Dunning, http://fresnorankedvoting.blogspot.com
Re: California Voting Rights Act

My name is Ryan Dunning and I am a student at San Joaquin College of Law and a member of Californians for Electoral Reform (http://www.cfer.org). I write today to propose an amendment to Section 14029 of the California Elections Code. Section 14029 is contained within the California Voting Rights Act. Section 14029 instructs a court which has found a violation of the Act to impose an appropriate remedy, which, as the code states, may include district-based elections. However, district elections carry with them their own set of problems.

District elections may increase minority representation, but only if the minority group happens to reside in one part of the jurisdiction (i.e., within a newly formed district). A minority group which is spread throughout a jurisdiction will require contorting and gerrymandering one or more districts in order to make those districts “safe” for that minority group. But, racial gerrymandering is looked at suspiciously by the courts and found unconstitutional where race is the predominant factor in drawing district boundaries. Also, districts have disadvantages compared to at-large elections, including greater regional/territorial divisiveness, and the inability of voters to elect two people who are both highly desirable representatives, but cannot both serve simply because they happen to live near each other. Thus, what is needed is a voting method which is at-large but at the same time ensures that minorities elect their fair share of representatives. Luckily, there is such a method: it is called the Single Transferable Vote.

Single Transferable Vote (STV), also known as “Choice Voting”, is a ranked-choice voting method which operates at-large (or using districts which elect multiple representatives each). The method has been in use in Australia and Ireland for over a hundred years. A brief history of STV in the United States can be found here: http://fresnorankedvoting.blogspot.com.

Therefore, I propose adding language to Section 14029 which instructs the court that a remedy to a violation of the Act may include alternative voting methods, such as “limited voting”, “cumulative voting”, and especially “single transferable vote”. Such language will ensure that the courts take into account all viable voting methods when choosing an appropriate remedy.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I hope that you or a representative of your office would like to discuss the matter further, either in person, through e-mail, or over the phone.


Ryan Dunning

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