FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. How can I tell if I live in the district and will be affected by the move to trustee area elections?
A. You can determine if you live in the district by typing your address into the Look Up Your District tool on the website of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. You can also check the district boundary map. Foothill-De Anza encompasses the Palo Alto Unified, Mountain View Los Altos Union High School and Fremont Union High School districts.
Q. How can I participate in influencing trustee area boundaries to ensure that my interests are represented?
A. Community input is needed to ensure that boundary lines for trustee areas make sense and that whenever possible, they do not divide communities of interest. Determining communities of interest is one of the most important steps in the process, particularly in a district that encompasses as many communities as Foothill-De Anza.
There are several ways to participate by sharing your thoughts and ideas:
Public hearings – Before the district’s consultant produces any draft boundary maps for public review, the Board of Trustees will hold two public hearings to gather information about communities of interest. These hearings at scheduled to take place at board meetings at 7 p.m. Sept. 13 and Oct. 4.
Draft trustee area boundary maps prepared by the consultant are expected to become available in November and will be posted for public review and comment. Draft maps will be discussed at two public hearings – at 7:00 p.m. on Dec. 13, 2021, and Jan. 10, 2022 – as well as at subsequent final meeting when the board will vote to accept or reject a final trustee area boundary map. (See the meetings timeline for the meeting schedule.)
Communities of Interest Survey – Please share your knowledge about communities of interest within Foothill-De Anza’s boundaries by taking the Communities of Interest Survey on this website or using the mapping tool on this website to mark communities of interest.
Comment on and submit maps – Draft maps prepared by Redistricting Partners, the district's demography consultant,
are expected to become available in November and will be posted for public to review.
Members of the public also can submit draft maps using a mapping tool.
People will have an opportunity to comment on the draft maps at two public hearings as well as at a final meeting when the board will vote to accept or reject a final trustee area boundary map. See the timeline for when those meetings are scheduled.
Email public comments - Public comments also can be emailed to TrusteeAreas@fhda.edu.
Q. What is a “community of interest”?
A. In the context of trustee area elections, a community of interest is a geographically contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests. Bringing like people together for fair and effective representation is one of the key principles in drawing trustee area boundary lines.
Communities of interest include racial, ethnic and language minorities as well as groups that are united by shared values and circumstances. Even though race is an important consideration under the California Voting Rights Act and the federal Voting Rights Act, it cannot be the predominant factor in drawing the trustee area boundaries.
The definition of communities of interest is expansive. It includes people who live in the same area and share interests such as educational opportunity, transportation, land use, outdoor recreation, and access to specific services, for example. Common circumstances among people who live in a particular area also create communities of interest. Examples of unifying circumstances include income, pollution exposure, crime, traffic congestion, type of housing, urban or rural environments, and physical proximity to landmarks such a freeway, school or college, airport, dump, golf course, park, etc.
City, school and neighborhood boundaries often create their own communities of interest. Examples of other communities of interest could be people living near an industry where many people in the community work, concentrations of senior citizens or students, and homeowners or renters.
Q. What are some of the factors considered in establishing trustee areas?
A. The district will follow established redistricting principles and provisions laid out for cities and counties in California’s Fair Maps Act. These guidelines call for trustee areas that are:
- Of relatively equal size based on U.S. Census data.
- Contiguous, which means they do not hop, skip and jump over some areas to include others.
- Drawn to maintain “communities of interest” so that people of like interests are brought together for representation.
- Consistent with city, county and local government boundary lines as much as possible.
- Compact. California defines compactness “as not bypassing nearby populated areas in favor of more distant populated areas.”
Q. Who draws the trustee area boundary maps?
A. Redistricting Partners, a consulting firm with expertise in demography and voting rights, will draw several draft trustee area boundary maps for consideration and comment by the public and the Board of Trustees. In addition, members of the public can draw draft maps and submit them using a mapping tool available through this website.
Q. Who will make the final decision about the map establishing trustee areas?
A. The final decision rests with the Board of Trustees after hearing from the public. Board discussions and decisions about trustee areas will take place in public.
Q. What will happen to the current trustees?
A. Where incumbent trustees live cannot legally be considered in the districting process. Once trustee area boundaries have been established, some current trustees may find that they live in the same trustee area as other trustees. Incumbents who live in the same trustee area will have to decide whether to run for re-election when the time comes.
The transition to trustee areas will take place over two election cycles because the terms of board members are staggered. Elections are held every two years.
Part of the districting process involves determining the order in which elections will be held in the new trustee areas. Often an effort is made to align the election for an area in which a currently elected trustee lives with the year in which that trustee’s term expires.
The first election under the trustee area system will take place in November 2022.
Q. What is the timeline?
A. The district committed to establishing trustee area elections no later than April 29, 2022, as part of its settlement agreement,. The new system of trustee area elections would start for the first time in the November 2022 general election.
The district has established a schedule of meetings to reach the April deadline while also allowing as much time as possible for candidate and voter education about the new trustee area election system. The first set of hearings will be in September and October 2021 to identify communities of interest. Draft trustee area boundary maps will be reviewed in December 2021 and January 2022. A final decision on trustee area boundary lines and the order of trustee area elections is scheduled to be made by the board in February 2022.
Q. Why is the district changing the way it elects trustees?
A. The move to trustee area elections is meant to strengthen the voting power of communities of interest whose voting power may be diluted by at-large elections. The decision to switch to trustee area elections followed a claim made by a district voter, Sebastian Aguilar, that his voting rights under the California Voting Right Act (CVRA) may have been violated because of “racially polarized” voting in the district or in other jurisdictions located within the district.
The district disputes that its at-large elections have been characterized by racially polarized voting. However, recognizing that the California Voting Rights Act strongly favors area elections over at-large elections and is intended to protect voting rights, the Board of Trustees opted to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation and voted to switch to trustee area elections beginning with the November 2022 general election. On March 11, 2019, the board adopted a resolution of intent to move to trustee area elections.
At the time the decision was made, no jurisdiction was known to have successfully defended against a CVRA challenge.
Q. What is racially polarized voting?
A. Racially polarized voting is defined as differences in voting patterns which can be shown to be correlated to race, religion, national origin, or membership in any other protected class. When there is racially polarized voting, voters in a protected class prefer candidates or ballot measures that are different from those preferred by the rest of the voters.
A protected class is a class of voters who are members of a race, color, or language minority group, as defined by the federal Voting Rights Act.
Q. What is the California Voting Rights Act and where can I get more information about it?
A. The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is a state law that provides a private right of legal action to members of a protected class to enforce constitutional guarantees of equal protection and the right to vote. It was passed by Legislature in 2001 and enacted in 2002.
The CVRA prohibits the use of at-large elections if a plaintiff can prove that racially polarized voting exists within the jurisdiction and that under a different voting system, a protected group could elect a candidate of its choice or influence the election outcome.
While it is modeled after the federal Voting Rights Act, the CVRA lowers the threshold required to establish a violation by eliminating the “totality of circumstances” test, which precludes introduction of other evidence as to why preferred candidates of the protected class lost elections, or requiring proof of intent to discriminate, according to legal analyses.
More information is available by using the links below.
California Voting Rights Act (2001) - A state law prohibiting the use of at-large districts in any agency with racially polarized voting.
California Voting Rights Act amendment (2016) - The California Voting Rights Act requires that plaintiffs get full reimbursement for legal fees associated with any successful challenge. This amendment to the act provides that these costs can be lessened or eliminated if the district follows a strict and prompt process for establishing area elections.
Fair Maps Act (2019) – A state law that increases transparency and public accountability in the redistricting process and requires a minimum number of public hearings, a set of criteria for drawing district boundary lines, public notice requirements for draft maps, and a public website. While it only specifically applies to cities and counties in California, the Fair Maps Act codifies traditional redistricting “best practices” that should be used by all local governmental agencies in California whenever possible.