Transition to By-Division Elections

The Carpinteria Sanitary District, like many other special districts across the state, is making a change in how voters elect the Board of Directors. Beginning in 2024, voters in each of five newly created election divisions will vote for one Director who resides in their division. This will replace the current system of at-large elections in which all voters residing in the District elect all members of the Board.

Final Division Map and Ordinance Adoption

On July 18, 2023, at the regular meeting of the District Board of Directors, a map delineating five discrete electoral divisions was selected as the preferred map. A public hearing was then held to consider adoption of Ordinance No. 19. This ordinance, was passed by a unanimous vote, formally approved the transition from at-large to division-based elections and adopted the final electoral division map. The ordinance also established a sequence for director elections. Seats for Divisions 1, 3 and 4 will be up for election in November 2024.  Seats for Divisions 2 and 5 will be up in November 2026.  A complete copy of Ordinance No. 19, including the final division map, can be found here:

Ordinance No. 19

Draft Division Maps

The District’s consultant, National Demographics Corporation, developed a series of color-coded maps, each reflecting five separate electoral divisions.  On June 20, 2023 Carpinteria Sanitary District Board of Directors reviewed each of the three draft division maps shown below, and demographic data associated with each map.  A public hearing was held concurrently to receive public input on the draft maps and the Board selected the “Green Map” as the preferred configuration for electoral divisions.

The maps may also be viewed using this link to the interactive map viewer.

Why the Change?

The District believes that its current at-large election system is fair and offers our constituents the greatest overall opportunity to guide policy and decision making.  However, in 2022 a legal claim was filed alleging that the at-large election system violates the California Voting Rights Act and abridges the voting rights of members of a protected class.  Instead of arguing the point, the District Board of Directors elected to transition from at-large to by-division elections.

Public Hearings

We value and promote the participation of the community in the division formation process.  We encourage interested residents to attend the public hearings and provide feedback on the proposed division boundaries. There will be a series of public meetings over the next several months to engage the public and allow for input on division boundaries.

The public may participate by attending any and all meetings in person.

The first public hearing was held on May 2, 2023 at 5:30 p.m. Click here for a copy of the presentation.

Proposed schedule of subsequent meetings:
May 16, 2023    NDC Presentation & 2nd Board Hearing
May 17 to
June 16, 2023   Development of Draft Division Maps
June 20, 2023  Presentation of Draft Division Maps & 3rd Board Hearing
July 18, 2023    Final Division Map Selection & 4th Board Hearing
July 18, 2023*  Ordinance Adoption Approving Division Maps & 5th Board Hearing
*5th Board Hearing may be held at a subsequent meeting at Board discretion


What is the CVRA?

The California Voting Rights Act, signed into law in 2002, prohibits the use of any election system “that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election.” Jurisdictions can be sued if they elect their governing body using an at-large, from-districts, or mixed election system. If the court finds against a jurisdiction, the jurisdiction must change its election system and pay the plaintiff’s attorneys, experts, and other expenses.

California law requires potential plaintiffs to notify the jurisdiction of plaintiff’s believe that the jurisdiction is in violation of CVRA and prevents the filing of a lawsuit for a 45-day ‘safe harbor’ period. During those 45 days the jurisdiction must begin the process of moving to by-district elections or risk a lawsuit. If a jurisdiction begins the process of moving to by-district elections, it has another 90 day “safe harbor” to complete that process.

How is the CVRA different from the federal Voting Rights Act?

While the CVRA is modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act, a protected class of citizens does not have to be geographically compact or concentrated to allege a violation of the CVRA. Also, proof of intent to discriminate against a protected class is not required. Due to the lower threshold of proof, no public agency has prevailed in a lawsuit to date.  For this reason, and the fact that public agencies are liable for attorney fees if they lose in court, the majority of public agencies have voluntarily implemented district-based elections.

What are division-based elections?

Under a division-based election system, the District is divided into five equally populated election divisions. A candidate must reside within an election division and is elected only by voters residing within that same division.

How are the boundaries of election divisions determined?

The process begins with two public hearings during Board meetings. During the public hearings, the public may provide input to the Board on the composition of proposed election divisions.

Following the second public hearing, the demographer will prepare at least two sets of draft division maps and an election plan identifying which division elections will be held in 2024 and 2026. A third and fourth public hearing will be conducted to obtain public input regarding the draft maps and proposed sequence of elections. Following the fourth public hearing, the Board will vote on a Resolution adopting a division map and sequence of elections.