Last year, the City of Irvine was accused of violating the California Voting Rights Act by continuing to elect members of the City Council through an “at-large” election process rather than “by-district.”
An at-large election system often precludes local neighborhood representation because voters throughout the entire City elect all members of the City Council; this often results in two or three elected Councilmembers living in the same area of the City, leaving other ares of the City unrepresented. On the other hand, district elections would divide the City into geographic districts, allowing voters in each district to elect their own City Councilmember, who must also live in that district.
As cities grow, most decide to switch to district elections since it’s viewed as a more equitable voting system to ensure that every part of town has its own elected representative. In recent years, a majority of Orange County cities have transitioned to district elections. The Irvine Unified School District has also transitioned to district elections.
District elections for the City Council could be beneficial to residents in the northern part of the City who are not currently represented on the Council. Homeowners in that area are battling an asphalt company that is spewing cancer-causing emissions. And Great Park Neighborhood homeowners — whose “special taxes” fund the amenities and operations at the Great Park — continue to have no say in what is actually built at the Great Park. Moving to district elections — with each Council district comprised of about 50,000 people — could also help residents around UCI and throughout the nearby business complex. Voters in that area of town (many of whom are attached to the university, which is the largest employer in the City) have historically not been represented on the Council.
The only member of the Irvine City Council to publicly support the City transitioning to district elections is Larry Agran.
For the past year, Agran has asked his Council colleagues to publicly discuss the City transitioning to district elections. However, Khan and Kuo have kept Agran’s request off the Council meeting agenda, even though the City has been threatened with a possible lawsuit that could cost Irvine taxpayers millions of dollars if the City does not transition to the more equitable system of district elections.
When asked for comment, Agran stated: “District elections have proven to be a better form of representation, and would allow us to expand the Council by two seats, ensuring that every part of the City is represented. Why wouldn’t we want that?”