The first of two interactive public workshops regarding the mapping process in Palm Springs’ transition from at-large to district elections will be held Tuesday evening, giving residents a chance to learn how to submit their own custom district maps to city officials.
Residents can attend the free 6 p.m. forum at James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 Tramview Road, to get a firsthand look at a mapping tool that can be used to create and submit maps to the city council.
The submitted maps will be reviewed by the city council as Palm Springs makes its switch from at-large elections, in which city officials are elected based on votes from the entire city’s population, versus district elections, in which various electoral districts throughout Palm Springs will elect councilmembers through separate elections.
City officials continue to consider where the new district boundaries will lie for its first district-based election and have engaged the services of a demographer to “document voting patterns by ethnicity and geography.” The demographer’s results will be shared at upcoming meetings, according to city officials.
Input is also being sought from residents regarding what criteria they consider important when laying out the district boundaries, including school attendance areas, single-family or multi-family housing unit areas and income levels.
The switch to district elections comes after a voting rights group threatened litigation against the city earlier this year, alleging that Palm Springs was violating the California Voting Rights Act by conducting at-large elections that “diminished the ability of Latino residents to impact elections and has resulted in racially polarized voting.”
Though city officials denied the nonprofit Southwest Voter Registration Education Project’s claims, they noted that municipalities that chose to fight litigious threats of that sort often lose, citing the northern Los Angeles County city of Palmdale, which lost a court battle over the matter and was forced to make the switch, as well as pay millions of dollars in legal fees.
Similar notices were sent to Cathedral City and Indio in recent years, prompting both municipalities to switch to district-based elections.
The deadline to submit a map is Sept. 17. Map submissions and comments should be emailed to CityClerk@palmspringsca.gov. The mapping tool may also be viewed at www.psdistricts.com . Examples of district maps submitted by community members can also be seen at www.ci.palm-springs.ca.us/government/city-clerk/district-elections/draw-a-district-map .
Spanish-language interpreters will be on hand at Tuesday’s meeting, as well as a second meeting that will be held Wednesday night at the Palm Springs Convention Center.
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