SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A group looking to change how City Council members are elected in Santa Maria is going to court. This comes after the city rejected their petition to get a measure on the November 4th general election ballot.
Hazel Davalos of the community advocacy group CAUSE wants to amend Santa Maria city charter to allow for district elections instead of the current at-large system. City Council candidates would represent 4 districts within the city, with only the mayor remaining elected at-large.
"We're a growing city, and we want to make sure that every part of the city feels that they have a voice on City Council," said Davalos.
Over 2,700 signatures were needed to get the measure on the November ballot, and over a two-month period CAUSE received over 5,000. But the city rejected the petition's signatures, saying they do not conform to state elections code. Davalos says the errors were minor and shouldn't have warranted a rejected petition.
"For example a phrase that said whoever was collecting needed to be 18 years or older. But rather we went above and beyond and put 'I'm a registered voter', because it implied that in order to vote you need to be 18 years or older," said Davalos.
CAUSE announced back in April that it would challenge the city in court. Today it said that a hearing is set for June 17th at Superior Court in Santa Maria. If the judge orders the city to accept the petition as valid, the measure would be placed on the November general election ballot.
"This is democracy. The city, at every turn, has stood in the way of this election reform despite the fact that Santa Maria voters have made it abundantly clear that they want this proposal to be on the ballot in November," said Davalos. "It's not worth disenfranchising and silencing the voices of over 5,000 Santa Maria voters because a sentence was placed in the wrong place," said Davalos.