Hart district Superintendent Rob Challinor sent a message to the Santa Clarita Valley on Thursday, saying while the district is changing to area-based elections, “It will not alter the way the district is governed.”
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Hart district officials decided to move to districts with a 4-1 vote July 16 because the change provided officials with a “safe harbor” from a potential lawsuit, said Hart district governing board President Steve Sturgeon.
“The CVRA has promoted a great deal of legal action and policy discussion throughout the state,” Challinor said. “The Hart board took this proactive step to avoid a potential legal challenge and to honor the law’s intention, which is to ensure that minority groups are not denied the opportunity to elect candidates and/or pass measures of their choice.”
The California Voting Rights Act, or CVRA, which was signed into law in 2002, seeks to ensure that underrepresented groups are not intentionally or unintentionally denied the opportunity to secure elected positions, according to Challinor’s statement.
Several lawsuits have been filed against Santa Clarita Valley governing boards alleging their at-large elections are being held in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.
It’s uncertain how the new boundaries lines will be drawn within the current district, Challinor said; however, a demographer will present several options to board members who will vote on the most appropriate choice, Sturgeon said.
“All five board members basically testified last night that we should be able to vote at large — it gives an opportunity for the entire population to choose who their representatives are,” Sturgeon said shortly after the vote. “So this becomes a little more exclusive to an area, which was the intent, and we’ll see how it works.”
The actual area boundaries from which the board members will be elected from is to be determined through a demographic study, Challinor said. “This study and the corresponding maps, outlining trustee areas, must be presented to the Hart board for discussion and subsequent approval in a public meeting.
“I want to assure our community that these meetings will be publicized in advance,” he said in a news release, “and we encourage people to attend to offer public comment on the process and express their opinions.”
The Newhall School District, as well as Saugus Union and Castaic Union, were all sent letters threatening legal action if a remedy was not discussed with the law firm Shenkman and Hughes, which sent the letters.
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Source: Santa Clarita News