Background on Measure A
The Voting RIghts Lawsuit that Prompted Measure A
The majority of Santa Clara is now comprised of people of color, but the City has not had a non-white Councilmember in almost 70 years, and has had only one Latino Councilmember, elected in 1979, serving for one year.
Asian Law Alliance, along with other civil rights attorneys, filed suit against the City in April 2017 on behalf of Asian-American voters in Santa Clara. In July 2017, the City, to circumvent the lawsuit, proposed an election system new to California and new to the country. The system would split the City in two, and elect three members each by ranked-choice voting with single transferrable vote (the “2x3” system). It is our position that this system is still an “at-large” election system under the CVRA, and that it will continue to unlawfully dilute the votes of Asian-American, African American and Latino-American residents.
An Imbalance of Power...
"A majority of city council members still could live within walking distance of one another, as several do now.
This does not solve the problems of the current at-large system, which keeps recycling the same all-white members on and off the council even though the city now is 37 percent Asian, 19 percent Latino and 36 percent white."
— The Mercury News Editorial Board
an Untested System with a Confusing Voting Method
The two “district” system is a plain attempt to avoid the lawsuit rather than empower voters. Three-member districts will require that each candidate receive over 25% of votes to win, while in a six-member district, a candidate would only need about 14% of the votes to win—thresholds the Asian American and Latino communities in Santa Clara can meet. The City chose to save its own skin rather than give minority voters a voice on the Council.
The proposed use of ranked-choice voting poses additional problems, particularly in a City that is reluctant to devote the necessary resources to voter education. Studies of ranked-choice voting in California cities show that Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, and older voters are disproportionately more likely to make mistakes that can spoil or limit their ballots, including marking multiple choices for a given ranking or listing only one candidate rather than ranking their preferences.
 See, e.g., Corey Cook, Ph.D. & David Latterman, M.S., M.P.P., Ranked Choice Voting in the 2011 San Francisco Municipal Election (2011), https://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=mccarthy_fac.
 For procedural reasons, the plaintiffs refiled their complaint on November 30, 2017. See Yumori-Kaku v. City of Santa Clara, No. 17-cv-319862 (Santa Clara Super. Ct.).