The Visalia City Council on Monday chose the boundaries of five council districts to be used next year when the city switches from at-large to district elections of council members.
Council members voted unanimously in favor of a map drawn by a consultant that has a district — District 1 — in which 57% of voting-age citizens are Latino. Council Member Greg Collins currently represents that area. He said he will not seek reelection in 2018.
“Now it’s up to individuals to throw their hat in the ring if they wish,” Collins said.
The council selected the map, known as NDC 2, from among four finalists.
District elections are expected to improve the odds of a Latino candidate winning election to the council. Only one Latino council member has served in the city’s history, and that was several years ago. Visalia’s Latino population is 46%.
A selling point for some council members was that no two incumbents are in the same district and therefore no council member would have to run against another incumbent in an attempt to stay in office.
The council also unanimously agreed that District 3 in southeast Visalia and District 4 in north central Visalia would hold elections in 2016, while the other three districts would hold elections in 2018.
Council Member Bob Link lives in District 3, and Council Member Amy Shuklian lives in District 4. Council Member Steve Nelsen lives in District 2 in east Visalia, and Council Member Warren Gubler lives in District 5 in west Visalia.
The choice ends a process that began last year when the City Council in a majority vote agreed to switch to district elections to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of the California Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit was filed in late 2013 by four Latino residents.
By law, race can’t be the determining factor in drawing lines.
Shuklian, who vocally opposed the switch to district elections, made the motion to adopt the map and said it “met the requirements of the lawsuit.”
The decision followed a series of public hearings on which map should be selected. Each of the final four has one district of majority Latino voters.
District 2, in eastern Visalia, has the second highest percentage of Latinos with 35% who are citizens of voting age.
The city hired National Demographics Corporation to draw maps of proposed districts. The final four chosen last month from a field of 14 include two submitted by the public. Three years ago, in response to a lawsuit, Tulare voters approved district elections; the same thing happened seven years ago in Modesto.