The City of Folsom is considering a transition from existing at-large elections to by-district elections for Folsom City Councilmembers.
Since the City of Folsom was incorporated in 1946, the city has elected its Councilmembers through an at-large election system. Under this system, registered Folsom voters elect the five City Councilmembers regardless of where the candidates reside in the city. Under by-district elections, the city is divided into five districts, and each voter within a district may cast one vote for a candidate residing within that district.
In February 2020, the city received a petition from the Folsom Area Democratic Club and numerous Folsom residents to begin the process to change City Council elections from at-large to by-district. In late October, the city received a letter from the petitioners’ attorney alleging that Folsom’s current at-large method of election may be in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Under the CVRA, public agencies can be sued when an at-large election system is alleged to have impaired the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of their choice or their ability to influence the outcome of an election.
The legislature established a very low threshold for plaintiffs to win a CVRA lawsuit, and to date, no public agency has successfully defended a legal challenge to remain in an at-large voting system. The costs to defend a CVRA challenge can be tremendously high, in some cases well into several millions of taxpayer dollars.
There has been no finding that the City of Folsom has violated the CVRA or any other law protecting Folsom residents’ rights to vote.
At its January 12 meeting, the Folsom City Council directed a public information initiative to educate the community about CVRA and the issue of district elections. Residents are encouraged to learn about the issue and provide feedback at www.folsom.ca.us/districtelections.