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Input for the October 30th public hearing on voting systems for Menlo Park

From: domainremoved <Steve>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2017 00:21:47 -0700

To Mayor Keith and Council Members Ohtaki, Mueller, Carlton, and Cline:
Cc: City Attorney McClure

The City Attorney, in his memo for the October 30th public hearing on
voting systems, points out that a city charter can only be adopted at a
November general election. It is unfortunate that, while charter
_amendments_ that advance voting rights can be placed on a June ballot,
an initial charter that accomplishes the same purpose cannot. Thus it
seems that, to avoid a costly law suit, the City Council must divide
Menlo Park into five single-member districts and then decide which three
of the districts will elect their respective Council Members at the
November 2018 election, and have all these decisions made and codified
in an ordinance by January 2nd, 2018.

However, that does not preclude the City from also placing on the
November 2018 ballot a two-article charter that specifies that,
beginning in November 2020, Menlo Park will use a different system to
elect its City Council. For example, that charter could specify any of
the following alternatives:
- Menlo Park would continue to use five single-member districts, but, to
eliminate the vote-splitting effects of plurality elections, will use
instant runoff voting (the single-winner form of ranked choice voting)
in those district elections.
- Menlo Park would have one single-member district that includes Belle
Haven, while the rest of Menlo Park would be a four-member district that
elects two members at a time, using limited voting, cumulative voting,
or the single transferable vote (the multi-winner form of ranked choice
voting). (The threshold of election in those two-seat elections would be
- Menlo Park would have one single-member district that includes Belle
Haven and another single-member district that includes (say) Sharon
Heights, while the rest of Menlo Park would be a three-member district
that elects all three members at once using limited voting, cumulative
voting, or the single transferable vote. (The threshold of election in
that three-seat election would be 25%.)

With any of the above, the charter could also specify that the district
lines would be drawn up by an independent citizens commission. I also
note that these are just examples, and other configurations are
possible, including increasing the size of the City Council and/or
changing to a directly-elected Mayor. (Increasing the number of seats in
a multi-member district that uses limited, cumulative, or ranked choice
voting lowers the percentage of the vote necessary to win a seat.)

While the immediate focus of the upcoming public hearings may have to be
on the configuration of five single-member districts, I urge the City
Council to continue to consider alternative solutions beyond the January
2nd deadline, perhaps by appointing a Charter Commission with the
mission of developing an appropriate two-article charter in time for the
November 2018 election. I note that the City has until August 3rd, 2018,
to place such a commission-proposed charter on the November 6th, 2018,
ballot. That's three times as long as the 90-day process you are
currently in. As that will allow much more time for public input and
deliberation, it is virtually guaranteed to produce a better system for
Menlo Park than the current process allows.

--Steve Chessin
President, Californians for Electoral Reform
1426 Lloyd Way, Mountain View, CA 94040
(408)-276-3222(w), (650)-962-8412(h)
Received on Mon Oct 30 2017 - 00:26:35 PDT

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