Voters in the Manteca Unified School District will have one measure on in the November ballot that others outside that geographical area will not have to worry about. They will have to decide whether the election of Board of Education trustees should be by area only or at-large.
Currently, trustees are elected at-large, which means all voters in the district get to choose who should represent each trustee area. Election by trustee area means only those who live in that particular area would choose the candidate they deemed best to represent them.
According to San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Austin G. Erdman, the election to decide this issue will cost the district about $170,000. That figure is based on the number of eligible voters living in the school district, he explained. That’s $3.32 for each voter times the current voter population of 51,091.
School district officials originally recommended the board seek approval of a waiver that would bypass the expensive election process. However, the idea of bypassing the election process which would mean denying voters’ rights to decide, did not sit well on Dale Fritchen of Weston Ranch and Bruce Lownsbery of Manteca who spoke against the district recommendation during a board meeting in October 2013.
“Let the voters decide their fates,” Fritchen, a former Manteca Unified trustee and former Stockton City council member, told district officials during that meeting. “They didn’t elect you to waive their opportunity to vote” for the candidate that they want to represent them on the board.”
“This is something that should come before the voters. We didn’t elect you to bypass the voters (but) to bring us options,” agreed Lownsbery.
Superintendent Jason Messer explained during that board meeting that the district will incur additional expenses other than those quoted by the Registrar of Voters. There will be attorney’s fees as well plus expenses that would cover education materials relative to what the election is all above. Those additional expenses are still unknown because the final map is still in the process of being redrawn. The first recommended redrawn map was not accepted by the board due to a number of issues such as the number of schools that would be represented by each trustee; hence, it was sent back to the demographer and attorney to come up with another map that the board could vote on. The map that the Manteca board will okay will need to be approved by the San Joaquin County Board of Education before it gets placed on the November ballot.
The first day of filing for the November elections, both for the four area seats that are being vacated at the end of this year and the issue over the new redrawn trustee map that is expected to be finalized and voted on by the board in April, is July 14 with the deadline set for Aug. 8.
The four whose terms are ending are board president Don Scholl of Area 5, and Trustees Evelyn Moore who is also Area 5, Manuel Medeiros of Area 2, and Nancy Teicheira of Area 4.
Redrawing the trustee map – from five to seven areas to correspond with the number of trustees on the board – among other things, is meant to protect the district from being sued by advocacy and political groups that would be financially draining to an already stretched school budget. Behind that concern is the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 which, in a nutshell, will make it easier for minority groups to prove that their votes are being “diluted” in at-large elections, and to sue local governments and agencies such as school boards like MUSD. Such litigation protection is already in place in other places such as the Stockton Unified School District and Lincoln Unified, also in Stockton. Ripon Unified is also exploring the idea.