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By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: 06/18/16 – 6:04 PM PDT |

It’s official. The cities of Highland and Yucaipa will hold district-based elections in November.

A Superior Court judge ordered Highland to make the change, while Yucaipa officials made the switch to pre-empt possible litigation. Both cities this week adopted resolutions formally announcing the Nov. 8 election.

Highland was sued over its at-large election system, joining a long list of municipalities targeted under the California Voting Rights Acts of 2001.

Cities with at-large systems have been sued for violating the act by causing racially polarized voting. The most common remedy for this has been changing to a system that divides municipalities into districts, such as those used to elect representatives to state Assembly and Senate, for example.

At a meeting Tuesday, Highland Councilman Sam Racadio said the intention of the 2001 act was to increase the number of minorities elected to local office, but the unintended consequence will be less effective government.

“I see cities will not be able to function as one anymore,” he said. “It will be districts, and people will be only concerned about only their specific district.”

The city of San Bernardino has long elected its officials by districts, and there has been widespread debate over whether this system had created dysfunction at City Hall prior to its 2012 municipal bankruptcy filing.

But no agency sued under the 2001 act has been successful in court.

To avoid the kind of litigation that forced Highland to change course, the city of Yucaipa took a proactive approach.

The Yucaipa City Council has tentatively adopted an ordinance establishing district-based elections as well as a map identifying district boundaries. Final approval and adoption is scheduled for June 27.

Under a district-based voting system, each council member must live within the district they are elected to represent, and they can be elected only by voters of that district.

The nomination period to run for Highland and Yucaipa councils opens July 18 and closes Aug. 12. If an incumbent does not file for re-election, the nomination period will be extended through Aug. 17 for registered voters. Incumbents who did not file by Aug. 12 cannot file in the extension period.

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