The Whittier Union High School District Board of Trustees will consider during its regular Oct. 9, 2018 board meeting a resolution to shift from At-Large elections to By-Trustee Area elections, effective November 2020.
In recent years, school districts and cities have moved to By-Trustee Area elections in response to federal and state voter rights laws designed to ensure underrepresented groups have equal opportunities and access to voting and representation.
The consideration by Whittier Union board members is in response to a demand letter from a local attorney arguing that “at-large election schemes dilute the ability of minority groups to elect their preferred candidates,” violating the California Voters Rights Act (CVRA).
The boundaries of the Whittier Union High School District include the communities of Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, unincorporated Los Angeles County communities of West Whittier, South Whittier, East Whittier, Los Nietos, and Avocado Heights, as well as portions of Norwalk, La Mirada and La Habra Heights. Hispanics make up 67 percent of eligible voters and non-Hispanic Whites make up 24 percent.
Under the District’s current at-large election model, residents may vote for any board candidate on the ballot irrespective of where in the Whittier Union District boundaries they live. Under the by-trustee area voting system, residents vote for a candidate residing in their newly drawn trustee-area, which is typically one-fifth of the entire district.
“Our community is diverse and ensuring our leadership is also diverse has always been a priority of the Whittier Union Board of Trustees,” Superintendent Martin Plourde said. “As always, students are our first priority – so supporting diverse representation and keeping money in classrooms rather than in courtrooms is important to us. The parameters of the CVRA are very prescriptive. We are presenting an option to the Board that implements the CVRA process and intent. This recommendation is both fiscally prudent and responsible to our community.”
If the Board approves moving to By-Trustee Area elections, the District is committed to a transparent, community-focused process that creates voter-area districts that best represent the community the District serves.