Voters in the November 2020 election will have a new way of electing candidates to the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board.

This board governs the Cosumnes Fire Department as well as Elk Grove’s parks and recreation system.

Next year, voters will only choose among candidates who live in their local area, instead of voting on contenders who live across the 157-square-mile district that includes Elk Grove and Galt.

The CSD board approved the “by-district” election system this February, and they will consider new “voting districts” that must be in place before the 2020 election. They are scheduled to begin considering these new districts at their June 5 meeting.

CSD directors were previously elected by voters at large across the district in the past 35 years.

Advocates argue that the new “by-district” system could attract more candidates of diverse backgrounds, make campaigning less costly, and prompt directors to be more accountable to their local constituents.  

They also believe that the old “at-large” election system favored candidates who had large campaign funds. Local activist and attorney Amar Shergill told the CSD board this February that that system disenfranchises women and non-white candidates.

“We believe it is a system, which is antiquated and suppresses the votes of minorities and suppresses the votes of women,” he said during the CSD board’s Feb. 20 meeting when they approved election reforms.

The current CSD board has three whites, one Latino, and one African American. CSD Director Jaclyn Moreno is the lone woman on the board.

Most voters in 2008 chose to keep the “at-large” system and rejected Measure S, which would have adopted “by-district” elections.

New interest in the “by-district” system was revived last year when CSD directors Moreno, Orlando Fuentes, and Rod Brewer heavily promoted that option.

Kevin Shenkman, a Malibu-based attorney who has a history of suing cities to change their elections to “at-large,” also issued a warning to the city of Elk Grove for keeping their current system where Elk Grove City Council members are elected by voters at large.

He claimed that the City Council’s system disenfranchises Latino voters since the Council lacks Latino members, despite Elk Grove’s large Latino population.

CSD directors this February decided to reform the election system instead of running another ballot measure for voters to approve.

The new voting districts

On June 5, the CSD board will start the process of creating voting districts for the November 2020 election. Each district would be represented by a director on the board.

These districts must also have “nearly equal” populations of registered voters, and districts cannot be drawn based on the voters’ races, according to a CSD staff report.

Factors such as physical boundaries like freeways, creeks, and railroad tracks can also be considered when drawing the boundaries.

The districts will be based on population data from the 2010 Census. After the 2020 election, the CSD must redraw the voting districts that are based on the new 2020 Census data.

Community members are invited to provide feedback on the voting districts during the board meeting.

There will be a second public hearing on this election project at the CSD board’s June 19 meeting.

The CSD board’s June 5 meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the CSD Administration Building, 8820 Elk Grove Blvd.