Irvine’s Discussion on District Voting Moved to Closed Session

By Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.
July 15, 2022 Updated: July 17, 2022

IRVINE, Calif.—After a heated discussion about giving voters the choice in November to expand the city council from four to six seats and changing how ballots are cast for those seats, councilors voted 4–1 on Tuesday to move the issue into closed session at their next meeting.

The item—brought forward by Councilman Larry Agran last week—intends to not only increase the size of the council, but to split the city into six districts of roughly 52,000 residents each.

If the measure is put on the ballot and approved by more than a 50 percent vote, residents would only cast ballots for the council seat that represents the district they live in—starting November 2024. Currently, councilors are elected through “at-large” voting, meaning residents vote for all five candidates, as well as the mayor.

Rules for mayoral elections would not change under the new system.

“Different geographic areas should be properly represented on a council,” said Councilman Larry Agran at the meeting.

Councilwoman Tammy Kim, who opposes changing the city’s voting system, suggested the matter should be reviewed by expert demographers prior to being voted upon by her colleagues.

She said her concern was that switching to district elections would cause the very problem it is meant to resolve—diluting votes.

“We would be putting residents at risk by disenfranchising them” from voting for councilors that make decisions concerning the entire city, she said.

She then motioned to not put the items on the ballot altogether.

Councilman Anthony Kuo questioned whether avoiding a ballot measure would put the city at risk of violating the California Voting Rights Act. The state law is aimed at ensuring local elections adopt voting systems that can protect the ability of underrepresented groups in respective regions to elect their desired candidates.

City Attorney Jeffrey Melching said it is better to discuss the matter in a closed session, to which the council majority agreed.

Councilman Mike Carroll cast the sole dissenting vote without providing comment. He was not immediately available for comment.

Another Orange County city, Mission Viejo, recently switched to district election to avoid a lawsuit in 2018 alleging their at-large system disenfranchised Latino voters.

Sophie Li and Rudy Blalock contributed to this report.

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.