Desert Water Agency is exploring a transition from at-large to division elections.
DWA currently has an at-large system that allows customers to elect all five members of the Board of Directors. Elections by division - also referred to as districts - will break the service area into five divisions with customers voting only for candidates from within their own division.
The move to voting by division avoids a potentially costly lawsuit. Various Coachella Valley cities and school districts have moved to district elections in recent years for similar reasons.
To assist in the process, DWA has hired National Demographics Corporation, the firm that did work for Palm Springs and Cathedral City in their districting efforts.
April 15 - 10:30 a.m., Carl May Community Center, 11711 West Drive, Desert Hot Springs
April 16 - 8 a.m., Desert Water Agency, 1200 S. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs
February 19 - Henry V. Lozano Community Center, Desert Hot Springs
Why is DWA considering the transition now?
Desert Water Agency received a letter from a law firm compelling us to voluntarily change our system from at large to by division before being sued. This law firm has sent many such letters and sued various cities and agencies. Each time the city or agency has had to change its election system voluntarily or risk a lawsuit that it would almost certainly lose. Those who went through lawsuits spent a great deal of money on legal fees and none have been successful in retaining at-large elections.
Is DWA being sued?
Desert Water Agency is not currently being sued but is being asked by a law firm and its client to voluntarily change its election system. The Agency believes that there is a strong chance of being sued if it does not make the change.
How will this change affect me?
If the Agency changes its election system to by division, voters will only get to vote for one representative who resides in the same division within the Agency’s boundaries. Voters will only have the opportunity to vote for DWA Board member every four years. Despite being in divisions, all of the Agency’s Board members will still be obligated to serve the best interest of the entire Agency.
Were past DWA elections unfair?
At-large elections have always been an acceptable, democratic approach across the United States. The California Voting Rights Act and court cases that followed have made at-large elections nearly impossible to maintain.
Will the Agency get new Board members?
Depending on the new divisions, some of the current Board members may have to run for a single seat in a future election. The Board of Directors will have to divide the Agency into five separate divisions and then determine which divisions come up for election first.
How can I share my input in this process?
Who is developing the division maps?
National Demographics Corporation (NDC) is developing draft map options. NDC did work in the districting of City of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Healthcare District, and many others.
Why are you using 2010 Census data?
We are required to use 2010 Census data until 2020 Census data is available. The divisions will be redrawn at that point to account for growth and demographic trends.
Where are the maps that show the divisions?
Draft maps will be available in the spring. Please visit www.dwa.org/divisions to review public hearing materials and draft maps.
When will there be elections for the new divisions?
Desert Water Agency elections are in every even year. The next elections will be in November of 2020 for two of the five seats on the Board. In 2022, the remaining three seats will be up for election.
Will the agency fight to keep its current election system?
Desert Water Agency’s Board adopted a resolution of intent to transition to a by-division election system on February 5, 2019.