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City Council Updated On Election Changes
Doug Johnson of National Demographic Corporation makes a presentation to the Riverbank City Council at its final 2014 meeting in council chambers in City Hall. He reviewed the progress his company has made on the study of a need for converting to District Elections in Riverbank as well as a timeline for upcoming segments of the process. Ric McGinnis/The News

At its final meeting of 2014, the Riverbank City Council heard a presentation by its contractor working on a demographic study to determine voting patterns in city elections.

Earlier this month, Doug Johnson of National Demographic Corporation presented a progress report of what has been learned and a potential schedule for upcoming actions.

To be in line with federal and state Voting Rights Act legislation, jurisdictions must ensure that any racial or ethnic group’s votes are not ‘diluted’ by having an ‘at-large’ election system.

In 2013, the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County contacted the city expressing concern that its current at-large electoral system may deprive Riverbank citizens of meaningful participation in the democratic process under the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”). In December 2013, the Council issued a request for proposals to conduct a demographic study analyzing the City’s at-large electoral system to evaluate whether a transition to a district election system is necessary.

In February 2014, the Council hired National Demographic Corporation to conduct the study and recommend steps necessary to ensure compliance with the federal and state laws. As Johnson outlined what had been learned so far, he proposed the city hold an election in the spring or summer to let voters decide whether or not to switch to district elections, and suggested some district (neighborhood) boundary lines that might be proposed.

He did, however, point out that this election process might put council members in a difficult position, where, even if the voters rejected the idea of districts, the council might feel forced to enact them anyway, for fear of costly lawsuits.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.

The council has budgeted $25,000 for the work by NDC.