Frequently Asked Questions

 

Transition to By-Trustee Area Elections

Why is the School District considering changing the way it elects its governing board members?
In May 2019, the Board discussed transitioning its governing board election method from the current “at-large” method to a “by-trustee area election method in order to comply with the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). At the May 16, 2019 board meeting, the Board heard a presentation from a legal expert who discussed the provisions of the CVRA, recent changes to the CVRA and the resulting transitions of many cities, school districts and special districts to a by-trustee area method of election. Many of these public agencies had changed their method of election as a result of actual or threatened legal action under the CVRA. By taking action prior to receiving a formal demand to change the District’s method of election, the District is now able to move this process forward in a thoughtful and methodical way rather than under the statutory timeline of 90 days that is triggered by the receipt of a formal, written demand to change election methods under the CVRA.
What are the Federal and California Voting Rights Acts?
The Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) was adopted in 1965 and is intended to protect the rights of all citizens to participate in the voting process. The CVRA was passed in the California State Legislature in 2001, based on the Legislature’s belief that minorities and other members of protected classes were being denied the opportunity to have representation of their choosing at the local level because of a number of issues associated with at-large elections. Upon a finding of a violation of the CVRA, the act requires that “the court shall implement appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections that are tailored to remedy the violation.” As such, the default remedy and the clearly identified remedy by the Legislature is district-based elections.
Read about the FVRA and the CVRA.
Why consider the transition to a "by-trustee area" election method now?
DJUSD is joining more than 70 other cities and 155 school districts across the state that have started and/or completed the process to change how voters elect governing board members. Many other school districts in our region have received a letter demanding that school board elections transition from the current "at-large" election method to a "by-trustee area" election method in order to comply with the CVRA and have not succeeded in resisting such efforts. To date, DJUSD has not received a written demand to change and instead, is being proactive to take the time to discuss, invite public input, and ultimately decide on a district-based election process. DJUSD will conduct the transition process in accordance with the requirements of state law, which include the conducting of multiple public hearings prior to and after creating draft trustee area maps. In addition, DJUSD will conduct several community forums to enable members of the public to directly interface with DJUSD demographers to assist the public with understanding the process and maps and to facilitate the public’s participation throughout the process. On May 16, 2019, the DJUSD Board of Education adopted a resolution initiating the process of establishing trustee areas for conducting future governing board member elections in a by-trustee area method of election.
What is the difference between “at large” elections and “by-trustee area” elections?
DJUSD currently has an "at-large" election method where candidates may reside anywhere within the DJUSD boundaries and are voted upon by all of the registered voters of DJUSD. In a “by-trustee area” election method, candidates must reside within a specific geographic “trustee area” within DJUSD and are only voted upon by registered voters who reside in the same trustee area as the candidate.
What have other public agencies in California done in response to the CVRA?
Dozens of cities, school districts and other local agencies in California have faced similar challenges in recent years. Other school districts in our region have voluntarily or been forced to adopt changes to their method of electing Board members. In fact, we are the last school district in Yolo County to move to this method of election. While some districts have settled claims out of court by agreeing to shift to district elections, others have defended at-large elections through the court system and have incurred significant legal costs because the CVRA gives plaintiffs the right to recover attorneys’ fees. To our knowledge, no school district, special district or municipal entity has prevailed in a challenge filed against them under the CVRA.
What kind of legal costs can be incurred from a CVRA lawsuit?

Settlements are typically in the six, or even seven, figure range. The following are examples of legal costs incurred by public agencies under the CVRA pursuant to court order or settlement:

  • Palmdale: $4.5 million
  • Modesto: $3 million
  • Anaheim $1.1 million
  • Whittier: $1 million
  • Santa Barbara: $600,000
  • West Covina: $220,000
What are the Pros and Cons of by-trustee area elections?

Pros

  • Each geographic area of the school district boundary is represented
  • Viewpoints that might not be districtwide can be represented
  • Minority candidates (racial or political) have a better opportunity to be elected
  • It will likely cost less to run for the Board of Education since districtwide campaigning is not required
  • Each voter has a specific School Board Trustee to contact for assistance
  • Voter’s choice is simplified with less candidates to learn about
  • Election costs may be reduced since the District would no longer be required to run elections within the entire territory of the District every election cycle

Cons

  • Trustees may be tempted to represent only the interests of their Trustee areas, not the whole District
  • Candidates may be elected with fewer votes
    Trustee area maps must be reviewed and possibly redrawn after each census and significant annexation
  • The best and most qualified candidates may be concentrated into one or two electoral area(s)
  • Depending on staggered terms, not all voters may be voting for a school board member each election cycle, thereby potentially reducing overall turnout
What criteria will be used to create School District trustee areas?

Many factors may be considered, but population equality is the most important. Other factors may include:

  • Communities of interest
  • Compactness
  • Contiguity
  • Have visible (natural and man-made) boundaries
  • Include respect for past voter selections
  • Plan for future growth

In May of 2019, the Board of Education adopted a Resolution indicating its intent to transition to by-trustee area elections in time for the next governing board member election to occur in November of 2020. As a part of this process, DJUSD will hold at least four public hearings to receive public input and will conduct several community forums to further facilitate the public’s involvement in this process.

What are communities of interest?

A community of interest is a neighborhood or community that would benefit from being in the same trustee area because of shared interest, view, or characteristics. Possible community features or boundary definitions may include:

  • School attendance areas
  • Natural neighborhood dividing lines such as roads, hills, or highways
  • Areas around parks and other landmarks
  • City borders
  • Common issues, neighborhood activities or legislative/election concerns
  • Shared demographic characteristics, such as similar levels of income, education or linguistic isolation;
  • Single-family and multi-family housing units
How will transitioning to a "by-trustee area" election method affect me?
If approved, registered voters in the school district's boundaries will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate for School Board that lives in their "trustee area." Registered voters will not be able to vote for other School Board candidates from "trustee areas" in which they do not reside.
How many "by-trustee areas" will be considered?
At this time, the Board will be considering a map that includes five "trustee areas."
How many School Board members will be elected?
The School Board will be considering maps that include five "trustee areas." Once the School Board adopts a "by-trustee area" map, the number of "trustee areas" in that map will determine the number of Board of Education members that will be elected in the future.
How can I help shape the "trustee areas"?
The Board is conducting public hearings to receive community feedback on the proposed "trustee areas." Two public hearings will be held before the release of draft maps, and at these hearings, residents will be asked to provide input regarding the "composition of the trustee areas". There will be two additional public hearings at subsequent School Board meetings following the preparation of draft maps and community forums for input on the draft maps. The process will culminate in the Board adopting a final trustee area map for the conduct of future governing board member elections in a by-trustee area election method. The map will also specify the order in which the newly adopted trustee areas will conduct elections.
What draft maps will be considered by the Board?
The Board will consider one or more draft maps prepared by the District’s demographer and any maps submitted by the public.
When will the maps be available to the public?
By September 20, 2019, the draft maps will be posted on the District’s website.
What input will the public have on map selection?
Once the maps are released for public review on the DJUSD website, several community forums will be held during which the public may provide input and feedback on the draft maps. Thereafter, the Board of Education will hold at least two public hearings in which it will take public testimony regarding the draft maps. Members of the public and interested parties also have the option of submitting written comments on the draft maps, including which map or maps they support.
What criteria will be used to select the final map?
The Board will consider a range of factors in selecting the final map including (but not limited to) equal population, communities of interest, compactness, contiguity of the areas, visible boundaries, and respect for voters’ wishes and continuity in office.
How will written communications be memorialized during the public hearing process?
All written communications will be provided to the Board and will be part of the public record. The Board will consider the public record as part of its determination on how the final district map will be configured.
How will the final map be chosen?
The Board will consider a range of factors in selecting a final trustee area map. These factors include (but are not limited to) equal population, communities of interest, compactness, contiguity of the areas, visible boundaries, and respect for voters’ wishes and continuity in office.
When will this new "by-trustee area" election method be implemented?
If approved, "by-trustee area" elections would not become effective until the election in November 2020. However, the specific date on which a Board of Education Trustee will be elected from each of the new trustee areas (i.e., either in November 2020 or November 2022) will be determined as part of the map selection process.
Will all five Governing Board member seats be open for election at the District’s next general election (2020)?
No. The current Trustees will continue in office until the expiration of their terms and until their successors are elected and qualified.

The first by-trustee area district elections will be held during the November 2020 General Election. The next by-trustee area district election will be held during the November 2022 General Election.
Is it best to ask questions about the area formation process at the Public Hearings? Does the Public Hearings format allow for questions to be addressed?
The purpose of these public hearings is for community members and the Board to comment on the potential composition of "Trustee areas."

In practicality, the Board will open the public hearing and the demographer will briefly explain the process and describe the type of feedback being sought at this stage.

When the presentation concludes, members of the public can approach the podium and comment, in accordance with the Board’s protocols. After these public hearings, the demographer will take that feedback and prepare legally permissible maps that attempt to take that public feedback into consideration while still balancing population and other factors.

Additionally, community forums will be held to allow for further public input on draft map scenarios.
When will the 2020 U.S. Census data be considered for the formulation of the by-trustee area election system maps?
Adjustments to the "by-trustee area" maps would need to be considered and adjusted in 2021 based on the 2020 U.S. Census data results.

Following each decennial federal census, Education Code 5019.5 specifically requires school districts with "Trustee area" elections to adjust boundaries of any or all Trustee areas of the district to ensure that one or both of the following conditions is satisfied:

(1) The population of each area is, as nearly as may be, the same proportion of the total population of the district as the ratio that the number of governing board members elected from the area bears to the total number of members of the governing board.

(2) The population of each area is, as nearly as may be, the same proportion of the total population of the district as each of the other areas.

(Education Code section 5019.5(a).)

The District is required to make any such adjustment by the first day of March of the year following the release of the new decennial census data. Therefore, the current census is used for the 2020 election but, depending on potential population growth and movement depicted via the 2020 census, the "Trustee area" map lines may need to be adjusted to achieve equal population in advance of the 2022 election.
What if there is no candidate in one of the "by-trustee areas"?
There is a limited 25-day window for candidates to file declarations of candidacy with the County Registrar to run for office. This narrow window opens 113 days prior to the election and closes 88 days prior to the election. If no qualified candidate emerges from a "Trustee area" up for election, the Board may appoint to fill the vacancy from a resident of that "Trustee area."

Unlike ordinary appointments, according to Education Code section 5326, if no candidate has been nominated by 83 days prior to the election, the Board is authorized to appoint a qualified person to the Board. Such appointment must occur at a Board meeting prior to Election Day and the appointed member will be "seated" to the Board at the organizational meeting. Unlike, most vacancies, vacancies and appointments due to failure to elect result in the appointee serving "as if elected" – for the full term. (Education Code section 5328.)

The District's Board Bylaw (BB) 9223 Filling Vacancies describes the process for finding qualified candidates to appoint. Specifically, the District is required to advertise in the local media to solicit candidate applications or nominations and a committee consisting of less than a quorum of the Board shall ensure that applicants are eligible for Board membership and announce the names of the eligible candidates. The Board shall interview the candidates at a public meeting, accept oral or written public input, and select the provisional appointee by a majority vote. (BB 9223; see also Education Code section 5328.5.)

Importantly, the appointee must be eligible for office and reside within the specific vacant "Trustee area." The appointment must be made at a Board meeting prior to Election Day. The appointed member will serve as if elected in the general election – for four years.
Why is DJUSD divided into five "by-trustee areas"?
Pursuant to Education Code section 35012, the default number of Trustees for a given school district is five. In certain circumstances, a unified school district may be formed with, or increase its number of Trustees to, seven members. Also, elementary school districts with daily attendance of under 300 students are permitted to have as few as three Trustees. While there is a process that permits school districts to move from five to seven or from seven to five Trustees, the recent and ongoing transition to a "by-trustee area" election system does not affect the number of Trustees representing and governing the District. Instead, this transition only alters the method by which Trustees are elected. Since DJUSD is governed by a five Trustee Board, the draft map options will each create five "Trustee areas."

Have additional questions or concerns? Send them to communications@djusd.net.