The Coastside Fire Protection District, Montara Water and Sanitary District and the San Mateo County Office of Education were each served letters in early February informing them their board election processes are in violation of state law. Similar letters have been sent to local districts across the state and demand a change to by-district voting.
The letters, from the Law Offices of Melo and Sarsfield, claim the three boards’ use of at-large voting to elect members does not comply with the California Voting Rights Act. The law group claims that at-large voting, as opposed to a by-trustee-area system, suppresses minority voter turnout.
“It is self-evident that minority representation on the board has been historically lacking,” the letter reads.
The three districts declined to comment on the letters. Leading up to the 2020 election, the Cabrillo Unified School District and the city of Half Moon Bay reworked board elections systems to switch to by-trustee-area elections. The difference is that voters now choose one person to represent their geographic area, versus voting to elect the entire board across the jurisdiction.