Anne Pica, who has led an effort to protect the results of Measure G, has hired Veljovich Law Group and The Reyzin Law Firm, of Carlsbad, CA to represent herself and other members of the community in preventing the Menifee City Council from throwing out Measure G.
Measure G was the ballot initiative of June 2008 to determine city council members should be elected at large, or by district. By district won by a slim margin.
Anne Pica contends that forcing a special election, that could potentially overthrow Measure G, is illegal.
City Attorney Elizabeth Martyn responded back to Anne with a letter dated May 13, 2009, that such a special election is legal.
Attorneys for Anne Pica then responded with a letter of their own, dated June 12, 2009, disputing Martyn's explanation, and reinforcing Anne's argument that it's actually illegal.
Anne's original arguments to the City hinged on two points, that California law prevents cities from overturning public vote (in this case Measure G) on matters relating to city council member election processes, and that an at-large voting arrangement is actually a violation of California's voter rights act, based on a disproportionate share of "protected class" residents in Menifee (seniors).
Martyn responded in her letter of May 13, that...
California Government Code 34871 deals with putting the issue of district voting before the electorate; read with the final paragraph of Section 34884 the statute provides a method for a special election at which various forms of district voting as well as at-large voting may be considered.However, as pointed out by Anne's attorneys, 34884 allows a city to put forth a special election to redecide city council districts. 34871 limits such a revote to just different types of districts, it doesn't allow cities to offer a revote on at-large.
To get around this, Martyn explained there's another law, California Elections Code 9222, which allows cities to place a measure on the ballot to change existing city ordinances...
California Elections Code Section 9222, which is within the California Election Code Sections referred to in Government Code 34871, provides authority for a special election on the enactment of an ordinance, such as that for district voting.Theoretically, the City would use this law to justify a special election that could overturn Measure G, and effect at-large voting.
But Anne's attorneys explained that 9222 does not give cities authority to create a special election that would overturn a vote of the people. That is, it limits such special elections to address ordinances enacted by council. It does not allow cities to circumvent ordinances decided by public vote. Measure G was a vote of the people.
The part about violating the state's voter rights act was not addressed by Anne's attorneys so I'm assuming there's no argument there. Anne was arguing that the high volume of seniors living in Menifee could be defined as a "protected class", whose representation could be underserved with an at-large council election. However, Martyn explained that the state's voter rights act doesn't recognize seniors as being a protected class.
At this point, it's all just letter writing, and there are no lawsuits.
The next city council meeting has penciled in Douglas Johnson, who is with National Demographics Corporation. That's the company the city hired to study the issue of governance. The same company was also hired by Wildomar, and Johnson is working with them too on the very same issue. From what I've learned about Johnson, he's had experience with cities trying to overturn districts in favor of at-large.
It'll be interesting to hear what he has to say.