A council candidate’s perspective on ‘districting’

Letter to the Editor

On April 14th, the Event News published the City of Cypress’s “official response” to violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) and justification of their 4:1 vote to retain at-large election voting. We’ve also heard from residents at the last several council meetings, both in favor (e.g., “it’ll be easier for candidates to canvas”; and “outlying areas will be better represented”) and opposed (e.g., “it’ll break up Cypress”; and “we’ll only have one council member representing us”).

Since the summer, residents have shared their dismay that their vote in 2020 was discounted concerning the appointment to fill Stacy Berry’s vacant council seat. It was then that I also heard comments about moving Cypress from at-large to district voting. I researched Kevin Shenkman, the lawyer that issued the letter to the City of Cypress, as well as the CVRA, and district voting to have a better understanding with regards to Cypress.

I learned that many cities that have switched from at-large to district voting after being sued (or warned) by Kevin Shenkman are 2-3 times more populated than Cypress (50,151, 2019). Examples include the City of Orange – 139,887 (2019), Irvine – 316,860 (2021), and Huntington Beach 200,259 (2019). While districting may make representing residents of large cities more manageable, the CVRA addresses minority representation and historical minority candidate suppression.

As the Candidate that placed third in November 2020; and was then passed over by the Council for the Appointment my first thought was districting might be a good option, especially with many residents voicing similar sentiments. However, after weighing resident comments, my findings, and what I consider to be the best interest of Cypress, I disagree with Shenkman that Cypress should move to district voting.

When I lost in 2020, my thoughts were focused on reaching more residents and earning their vote next time. It wasn’t that 6.62 miles was too large to canvas, but the pandemic and poor air quality due to the wildfires made it more difficult.

Douglas Johnson, President of the National Demographic Corporation said “District elections are definitely not better in every instance. They can lead to our neighborhood versus their neighborhood frictions” (Spectrum News1; April 11, 2022). This same concern has been shared by Cypress residents at recent council meetings.

Johnson also claimed that “Shenkman has taken the law beyond what it was designed to do”. This comment made me think about the recurring 4:1 council votes. A good example is the trash contract extension and approved rate increase because the Council vote of 4 does not reflect the resident’s vote (i.e., “1”). It is a recurring pattern seen since the days when Stacy Berry was the single vote for the people; and it has many residents wondering WHY their vote doesn’t matter.

This 2020 Candidate wonders if this could be a reason many see district voting as the answer. When I ran for City Council, I ran to serve all the residents. I am sure every Council Member will reiterate this sentiment. I hope that Cypress can come together before the next election to let at-large elections stand and to vote for three qualified candidates that represent what we are all looking for.

Carrie Hayashida (Katsumata)