Guest opinion: Supervisors knew suit on elections was coming | April 27, 2011 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - April 27, 2011

Guest opinion: Supervisors knew suit on elections was coming

by Henry Organ

The class action suit against San Mateo County and its "at large" voting system for electing members of the Board of Supervisors was predicable, but avoidable.

A year ago, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which filed the suit this month on behalf of Asian Americans and Latinos in the county, alerted the supervisors of this possibility. The committee is no paper tiger. It has an impressive and respected track record in similar voting rights act cases in California. Even prior to the committee's alert, in June of 2009, the county's 2008-09 Civil Grand Jury forewarned supervisors of possible voting rights violations.

The Board of Supervisors knew the current "at large" election system has serious voting rights flaws. It should have addressed these issues forthrightly by placing it on the ballot last November. While doing so, the board should have recommended a change to voting "by district," and explained why. Without this leadership, asking voters to support a "by district" system would be preordained to failure, as it has in past ballot efforts.

There seems to be a culture among some supervisors, especially former supervisors who appeared before the Charter Review Committee, to preserve a form of political incest using "at large" elections and filling vacancies on the Board of Supervisors by appointment. Irrespective of questions of voting rights violations of communities of color, "at large" elections is not good government.

I believe the majority of people in the county want to provide and maintain voting rights of all its citizens. The Board of Supervisor's opportunity to provide this leadership and accountability, unfortunately has now been abdicated to a judicial body. The 2008-2009 Civil Grand Jury did exercise leadership and accountability, for which many will be grateful.

Henry Organ lives in Menlo Park and was a member of the Charter Review Committee.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Menlo Park should do the same. We should have council members represented by geographic location within the City.

One way would be to break it into 5 districts based on precincts. For instance:

MP District 1: Precincts 4401- 4406 with 3307 registered voters
MP District 2: Precincts 4407- 4412 with 3329 registered voters
MP District 3: Precincts 4413- 4417 with 3614 registered voters
MP District 4: Precincts 4418- 4423 with 4014 registered voters
MP District 5: Precincts 4424- 4431 with 3393 registered voters

this is not perfect because there are 17,757 registered voters in the City and to proportion fairly means 3511.4 voters per district. So District 1 is over represented the most and District 4 is under represented the most. Which menas we should look how we divide precincts. The 4429 has 32 voters, the 4412 has no voters, and the 4413 has 1269 voters. It seems like all the former 4412 voters were placed in the 4413.

Current breakout by precinct for the Board of Supes election is

753 4401
675 4402
675 4403
526 4404
600 4405
78 4406
507 4407
692 4408
615 4409
514 4410
901 4411
0 4412
1269 4413
551 4414
629 4415
608 4416
557 4417
573 4418
699 4419
777 4420
802 4421
546 4422
617 4423
637 4424
619 4425
715 4426
648 4427
617 4428
32 4429
67 4430
58 4431

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I agree with Henry, all they had to do was put it on the ballot.

Web Link

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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2011 at 8:52 am

Mr. Organ has made a bold and concise recapitulation of the obvious and is to be commended.

The political system in the County is relying on the ignorance and apathy of its populace as it always has, and rests in the assurance that the opinions espoused by him will not overcome the organized union voting block come election time.

The government does as it pleases in this County while the populace slumbers through its exploitation.

Is there an alarm clock?

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2011 at 6:59 am

Update on the lawsuit against San Mateo County.

Web Link

“San Mateo County is the only county in the state that elects supervisors countywide,” said attorney Joe Cotchett in a prepared statement. “And it’s no coincidence that San Mateo County is the best-managed county in the state of California with supervisors who are accountable to all voters.”

Peter Carpenter in another thread asks why the DA refers to the County Counsel so much for legal advice...Here we have another example, why is Joe Cotchett making a prepared statement?.....We have County Counsel to represent the County, as you can see below.

"The county is now seeking to uphold its constitutional rights by maintaining the current system which is allowed by the state, said attorney James Wagstaffe in an announcement of the motion."