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News Updates

District Elections Update

The City of Carlsbad is holding public hearings on the upcoming change to “by district” City Council elections. In response to a lawsuit threat, the Carlsbad City Council voted May 9 to voluntarily move to district elections, taking advantage of a legal protection that enables cities to have a say in district boundaries and avoid costly litigation. See the full hearing schedule.

The first two hearings will take place at City Hall, 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive, during the following City Council meetings:

Tuesday, May 30, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, June 13, 6 p.m.

The first two hearings will cover:

  • Background on the transition process.
  • Overview of city demographics.
  • Review of the legal criteria for creating district boundaries.
  • Input from the public on:

Other potential criteria to be considered when creating district boundaries.
How the transition should occur.

Public input will be provided to a professional demographer, who will create maps with proposed district boundaries. Once these maps are ready for public review, the city will hold additional public hearings to get input on the maps.

How are districts drawn?

Under state and federal law, districts must be as close to equal in population as possible.  Additionally, the districts should:

  • Be compact
  • Be contiguous
  • Have visible (natural and man‐made) boundaries
  • Include respect for past voter selections
  • Plan for future growth
  • Include neighborhoods that would benefit from being in the same district because of shared interests, views or characteristics, such as:
  • School attendance areas
  • Natural neighborhood dividing lines such as highway or major roads and/or hills
  • Areas around parks and other neighborhood landmarks
  • Common issues, neighborhood activities or legislative/election concerns.
  • Shared demographic characteristics, such as:
  • Similar levels of income, education or linguistic isolation
  • Ancestry (not race or ethnicity)
  • Languages spoken at home
  • Percentage of immigrants
  • Single‐family and multi‐family housing units


The City of Carlsbad received a letter April 5 alleging the city is violating the California Voting Rights Act because City Council members are elected “at large,” meaning all City Council members are elected by all residents. Dozens of local government agencies in California have faced similar challenges in recent years, including our neighboring cities of Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos.

The Carlsbad City Council voted May 9 to voluntarily move to district elections, taking advantage of a legal protection that enables cities to have a say in district boundaries and avoid costly litigation if they agree to move to district elections voluntarily within 45 days of receiving a demand letter. To date, no city has prevailed in challenging lawsuits brought under the California Voting Rights Act, and instead, many have paid legal fees in the millions and still ultimately been forced to move to district elections.

More information is available on the city’s website. www.carlsbadca.gov/districts

Source Documents

California Voting Rights Act
California Voting Rights Act “Safe Harbor” provision 
Federal Voting Rights Act
April 5, 2017 “demand letter” alleging violation of the California Voting Rights Act
May 9 staff report recommending a resolution to change to electing City Council members by district

May 20, 2017