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Voters Consider Ending 'At Large' Supervisor Elections

A measure on this November's ballot lets voters choose how they want to elect their county supervisors.

A countywide measure that would change the way San Mateo County elects its Board of Supervisors will be decided in November.

Measure B proposes amending the county charter to change the mode of electing individual supervisors from countywide "at-large" elections to five separate "by-district" elections.

San Mateo County is currently the only county in California to use at-large elections, a practice that has prompted criticism and even a lawsuit from groups that contend that the system leads to costly campaigns that prevent minority communities from being fairly represented on the board.

The lawsuit, filed in 2011 by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, has been suspended until after the Nov. 6 election.

Supervisor Dave Pine and a broad coalition of Peninsula mayors, city council members and school board trustees gathered in front of Millbrae City Hall last week to voice their support for Measure B.

Pine, who said he has been an advocate for switching to district elections even before he was elected in 2011, said the change would increase fair representation on the Board of Supervisors by broadening the pool of candidates and making elections more competitive.

"In a district type of an election, you could run a grassroots campaign without a lot of money," Pine said. "It will increase the odds that the board would be more representative of a diverse community."

Pine said that in the last 30 years, an incumbent supervisor has never lost a re-election campaign.

Opponents of the measure -- who include three incumbent supervisors and U.S. Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto -- argue that countywide elections inspire candidates to be accountable to all county residents, not just to those who live in one of five districts.

"With supervisors elected countywide, no one region of the county gets special treatment, because supervisors must consider the whole county when they make decisions," Speier said in a statement against Measure B.

Pine disagreed, saying that the majority of issues that come before the board -- providing access to health care, public safety, and environmental protection -- are issues that affect the entire county anyway, and that supervisors elected by district will better represent the changing demographics of the county while continuing to act in the best interest of all residents.

"I haven't seen all that many issues where my vote would be influenced by where I live," Pine said.

Supervisor Don Horsley, who has not taken an official position for or against Measure B, said he supports leaving the choice to voters.

"My reasoning is, let the people decide how they want to be governed," Horsley said. "I trust democracy."

Proposals to switch to district elections have gone before San Mateo County voters twice before, in 1978 and 1980, and on both occasions they failed.

Measure B requires a simple majority to pass.

Candidates Shelly Masur and Warren Slocum are running for the District 4 seat in this November's election.

--Bay City News

Michael G. Stogner October 17, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Lets empower the voters of San Mateo County Vote YES on Measure B.
Andrew Peceimer October 17, 2012 at 08:00 PM
And remember to vote yes on Prop 32!

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