City moves forward with district-formation process

ENCINITAS — Encinitas, as expected, will begin the process of forming voting districts for future elections, the City Council announced Aug. 16.

The city is one of several in North County to announce they would change how residents elect their leaders after receiving the same threat of legal action from a Malibu-based civil rights attorney.

The Encinitas City Council had discussed Kevin Shenkman’s lawsuit in closed session the past two council meetings. Mayor Catherine Blakespear announced at the start of the open session that the council during closed session voted to direct staff to move forward with public hearings to start the district-forming process.

Shenkman, in the letter dated July 14, asked the city to voluntarily change its citywide election system or face litigation. Shenkman argues that the citywide voting violates the California Voting Rights Act because it dilutes the voting power of the city’s Hispanic residents — who comprise 13.7 percent of the city’s 63,000 population.

Every city Shenkman has targeted chose the voluntary path, as no city has ever prevailed in a lawsuit challenging a city’s at-large elections since the state Legislature passed its updated Voting Rights Act in 2002.

Palmdale in Los Angeles County challenged Shenkman’s firm in 2012 and lost a jury trial, costing the city millions in the process.

Blakespear in a recent newsletter to supporters predicted the city would move forward with the switch, albeit reluctantly.

“Some things aren’t popular but you recognize reality and get on with it,” Blakespear said. “Districting falls into this category.”

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