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Lowell District looks to adjust board

By Jay Seidel
La Habra Journal

The Lowell Joint School District is moving forward to change from an “at-large” method of election to a “by-trustee area” method of election.
At the January 16 board meeting there will be another opportunity for the public to weigh-in on their thoughts regarding the legally compliant district maps.
A representative from National Demographics Corporation, who was hired to create the map options based on regional demographics, will be in attendance to answer any questions. The public is encouraged to provide input to the Board of Trustees as they consider the various options.
The change was initiated after the board received a demand letter from Malibu law firm of Shenkman & Hughes.
Last Summer, Lowell Joint School District (and many other public agencies) received a letter from the law firm claiming the school district is violating the California Voting Rights Act (Elec. Code Section 14025-14032) because Trustees are elected at-large rather than by trustee areas.
The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) went into effect on January 1, 2003, and was enacted to prevent the use of an at-large election method where such method impairs the ability of minority voters to either elect a candidate of their choosing or otherwise influence the outcome of elections. An “at-large method of election” under the CVRA is a system where voters of the entire jurisdiction elect the members to the Board of Trustees. Lowell Joint School District has utilized an “at-large method of election” since 1972.
Shenkman has spent the past few years suing or threatening to sue various California cities councils and public school boards demanding that they change to district elections. In interviews, Shenkman said the effort is to better ensure greater representation for voters.
Since receiving the demand letter, the LJSD Board of trustees decided to comply with the demand rather than fight it. Most public entities who fought the demand letter lost and had to pay millions of dollars in costs.
Each month since September, the LJSD Board of Trustees has held public hearings regarding moving from an “at-large election” to a “By-Trustee Area election.”
September the board went over the summary of the California Voting Rights Act. In October the criteria was adopted to guide the establishment of trustee areas.
In November the National Demographics Corporation presented three legally compliant maps for consideration. In December the National Demographics Corporation presented two additional legally compliant maps for consideration
A final decision regarding the matter will be made at the January Board meeting and so that the By-Trustee Area can be implemented in time for the November 2018 election cycle.
The Board meetings are held at the District Office located at 11019 Valley Home Avenue in Whittier. The meeting starts approximately 7:30 p.m.
To view the maps go to the district’s website at: www.ljsd.org.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.