District-Based City Council Elections

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The City of Novato has changed the way that City Councilmembers are elected with the adoption of Ordinance 1650. Previously, all five Councilmembers we elected at-large, meaning that all registered voters who reside in Novato had the opportunity to vote for all five City Council positions.

Under the new district-based election system, all five Councilmembers will be elected by district. Councilmembers will be required to live in the district that they represent and will be elected only by the registered voters of that district. All five Councilmembers will continue to participate and vote on citywide matters regardless of what district they represent.

Novato Local Elections

The local elections on November 5, 2019 will include Districts 1, 3 & 5. Only voters residing in these districts will be voting to elect one Councilmember for their district to serve a 5-year term.

Voters residing in Districts 2 and 4 will vote for their district's Councilmembers in the 2022 local elections. Currently, the Councilmembers residing in these districts were voted into office in November 2017 for 5-year terms.

What's My District?

Check out the interactive map tool below to see which district you live in.

Why did the City of Novato transition to district elections?

In 2002, the Legislature enacted the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) (Elec. Code §§14025 – 14032), which prohibits California public agencies, including municipal governments, from imposing or applying an at-large election method "that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election" (Elec. Code §14027). A protected class is defined by the CVRA as "a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group, as this class is referenced and defined in the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965".

In a lawsuit brought pursuant to the CVRA, a plaintiff who establishes a history of a "racially polarized voting" under a city's at-large election system can require the city to change to a district-based election system and pay for his or her attorneys' fees. In February 2019, the City received a letter from an attorney, alleging racially-polarized voting in Novato. Pursuant to California Elections Code section 10010, a city can avoid even the filing of a lawsuit if, within 45 days of receiving a demand letter, it adopts a resolution of intention to move to district-based elections and, within 90 days thereafter, it adopts a district map for use in future elections. Although the City in no way concedes the allegations in the demand letter, and in order to avoid the high cost and burden of needless litigation, on March 12, 2019, the City Council adopted a resolution outlining its intention to transition from at-large to district-based elections , which includes specific steps the City will undertake to facilitate the transition, and an estimated timeframe for doing so. The Elections Code provides that, in order to avoid the filing of a lawsuit and to cap possible attorneys' fees, the City has 90 days to adopt an ordinance providing for district-based elections.

More information on Novato's transition to District-based City Council Elections, including draft maps >>

Frequently Asked Questions

Expand/Contract Questions and Answers

  • Why not contest the letter from Mr. Shenkman and go to district elections?

  • Why do we need to have district elections in 2019?

  • What are the costs to taxpayers to have district elections in 2019?

  • If a councilmember is elected in only their district, will they be able to vote on City matters not affecting their district?

  • Will Novato revise its districts after the 2020 census?

  • If a mayor is elected at-large, what will their powers and responsibilities be?

  • Will all of our current Councilmember seats be up in 2019?

  • How will district boundaries impact current councilmember seats?

  • Who determines the district boundaries?

  • If there are to be five City Council districts (one for each seat on the Council), which districts will be up for election in 2019?

  • What happens if two or more incumbent Councilmembers are “paired” in the same new council district?

  • When will the districts be redrawn?

  • Why are the current Councilmembers’ names listed on the draft maps next to the district numbers?

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