Asian and Latino Residents Settle Lawsuit with County

County residents initially filed a lawsuit against the county asserting that the “at-large” election system of county supervisors was discriminatory against minority voters.

The lawsuit filed in April 2011 that labeled the county’s “at-large” election system discriminatory was resolved by the passage of Measure B in November when residents voted to overturn the system.

The “at-large” system previously allowed all county residents to vote for a district supervisor despite not living in that district. Asian and Latino residents believed it was discriminatory because the elected supervisor did not fairly represent their constituents. Under the new district system, candidates will run from one of five districts and only voters who live in a district can vote in the election for the Supervisor from that district.

“When Measure B passed, it removed San Mateo as the last remaining county in California to conduct elections for Supervisor through at-large voting, a system that can lead to the dilution of minority votes even if not adopted for that purpose,” said Robert Rubin, a private civil rights attorney and co-lead counsel for the Asian and Latino voters. “Now that the voters have taken this historic step, we welcome the County’s decision to avoid the expense and risks of trial and instead to play a constructive role in the districting process.”

“The change to district elections is a positive step toward realizing a Board that reflects the County’s diverse communities,” said Joseph Otayde, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and an elected official of the Jefferson Elementary School District.  “As we move forward with creating the districts, we hope that the communities of San Mateo will take part in this important process to make sure that their voices are heard.”

Under the terms of the settlement, an independent committee will conduct a series of public meetings around the County to explain the district system and to receive community input as to where the boundaries of each district should be placed. The committee’s recommendation to the Board will reflect input from the community, as well as from an expert on districting, to ensure that the integrity of neighborhoods and communities of interests are protected.

The nine-person committee will comprise of public officials and private citizens to reflect the diversity of the county and will be vetted by the League of Women Voters. The Board of Supervisors will ultimately select the committee members.

The committee will present its recommendations in time for consideration by the Board at its October 8, 2013, meeting.  Following that meeting, the Board of Supervisors will make a final decision on district configuration.

It is anticipated that the district boundaries will be formally in place in time for the June 2014 Board of Supervisor elections.

“While the Board of Supervisors firmly believes that the existing system of elections was fair and protected the rights of all voters in the County, those voters expressed a clear preference for district elections through Measure B,” said San Mateo County spokesman Marshall Wilson. “Resolving the lawsuit thus allows the County to focus its efforts on developing the district based system chosen by the voters in a sensible manner that protects the right of all citizens to vote.”

On Monday, Feb. 25, members of the public can obtain an application from the County Manager’s Office, located on the First Floor of the Hall of Justice, 400 County Center, Redwood City, CA 94063 or online at: www.smcgov.org/districtlines.


Tell us in the comments below: Did you think the previous "at-large" election system was discriminatory? 

Gay Pride February 25, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Bunch of whiners, are white Americans allowed to sue in Mexico etc.? No.
Eileen Lepera February 25, 2013 at 05:40 PM
I thought whites were the minority - how come Asians and Latinos are suing?
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) February 25, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Accuracy of your statement aside, these people are county residents. They have every right to initiate litigation in San Mateo County.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) February 25, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Well, not all of them are suing. Not all Latinos and Asians share the same brain ... The people involved in this litigation want the supervisors to be responsible for a county district and answer to the people within it. In past elections, some politicians campaigned hard in parts of the county with high civic engagement rates, even though that party of the county wasn't in the district that they would be elected to represent. eg Dave Pine phone banked in Menlo Park, although he was running to represent the Burlingame area ... Essentially, restricting the politicians to their district's voters during election season gives the people the power to pull their supe out of office if they're not representing their interests.
Jo Tog February 25, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Hey, those whites that live in the Sunset District and SF Chinatown should sue. They have a very good case. It goes both ways.
Jo Tog February 25, 2013 at 08:10 PM
My friends live in a all hispanic neighborhood in San Mateo. They should sue too. Also, my friends have to put up with labor workers hanging out on corners. They should sue the San Mateo CIty over that too.
Jo Tog February 25, 2013 at 08:12 PM
I am a republican who lives in a all democratic community. I should sue. I am not properly represented.
Rob Chapman February 25, 2013 at 08:53 PM
What both this article & the lawsuit are saying is, Asians should vote for Asians, Latinos should vote for Latinos. How is that NOT racist? Shouldn't we ALL vote for the best overall candidate & NOT make our decision based on their race.
Eileen Lepera February 25, 2013 at 09:00 PM
It's just that the trend is, Asians want Asians and Hispanics want Hispanics - a bad precedent. Rob makes a very good point
Michael G. Stogner February 25, 2013 at 09:03 PM
“While the Board of Supervisors firmly believes that the existing system of elections was fair and protected the rights of all voters in the County, those voters expressed a clear preference for district elections through Measure B,” said San Mateo County spokesman Marshall Wilson. I would like to point out that NOT ALL of the Supervisors of San Mateo County agree with this statement. Supervisor Dave Pine has always supported District Elections. It's fair to say that all Supervisors who are members of Service League of San Mateo County feel that way.
The Captain February 25, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Usually, I just vote for women. They're better than men.
Jo Tog February 26, 2013 at 05:31 AM
I vote for the most qualified and credible. So my candidates never get elected.
The Captain February 27, 2013 at 07:36 AM
Actually, credentials are there to secure a Stay on Top and screw people over. It's best to go with personality, empathy is good in the long run.


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