San Mateo County Election of Supervisors Charter Amendment, Measure B (November 2012)
Measure B changed the way that members of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors are elected. Instead of all the supervisors being voted on by all registered voters in the county, henceforward, members of the Board of Supervisors will be elected just by the voters in his or her specific district.
Of California's 58 counties, San Mateo County is the only one that did not elect its supervisors by district. Voters in the county had the opportunity in 1978 and 1980 to approve a switch from the at-large system to the by-district system but rejected the switch in both those years.
Regardless of the fate of Measure B, the county's at-large system of representation was vulnerable to a legal challenge that was filed in April 2011. Nine county residents signed on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit that says that the at-large system is a violation of California's Voting Rights Act; according to them, the at-large system has diluted the voting power of the county's Latino and Asian-American residents. While these residents make up approximately 50% of the population of the county, the county has never elected an Asian-American county supervisor, while just one Latino supervisor has been elected.
- Final official results from the San Mateo County elections office.
The official voter guide arguments in favor of Measure B were signed by:
- Dave Pine, a San Mateo County Supervisor
- Dave Warden, Mayor, City of Belmont
- Kalimah Salahuddin, Trustee, Jefferson Union High School District
- Michael Brownrigg, Councilman, Burlingame
- David Lim, Deputy Mayor, City of San Mateo
- Peter I. Ohtaki, Vice Mayor, City of Menlo Park
- Laura Martinez, Mayor of City of East Palo Alto
- Virginia Chang Kiraly, Former San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Foreperson
- Matt Grocott, Mayor of San Carlos
- Pedro Gonzalez, Vice Mayor, City of South San Francisco
Arguments in favor
Arguments in the official voter guide in favor of Measure B included:
- "Of the 58 counties in California, only San Mateo County elects its Board of Supervisors in countywide elections. Every other county elects supervisors by district. District elections result in more competition, more accountability, more citizen involvement, and lower costs to taxpayers."
- "Countywide elections favor politically connected and well-funded candidates and incumbents. Why? With over 330,000 voters in San Mateo County, a supervisor campaign is a daunting and expensive proposition as it is similar in scope to running for Congress. As a result, the vast majority of San Mateo County supervisor races are uncontested or uncompetitive."
- "With district elections, approximately 66,000 voters in each of the county’s five supervisorial districts could choose their supervisor. That would attract more candidates to run as they could mount grass roots campaigns without having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would also increase the likelihood that the diversity of the county would be reflected on the Board of Supervisors."
- "District elections allow voters to hold incumbents accountable."
Other arguments made in favor of Measure B included:
- David Pine: "A countywide system creates enormous barriers for candidates to step forward and run because of the number of voters that have to be reached and the cost involved. In a district system you can mount a grassroots campaign, no question about it, because the voter population drops from 330,000 to 65,000. When you don't have elections you don't have a dialogue about the issues."
The official voter guide arguments opposing Measure B were signed by:
- Rose Jacobs Gibson, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
- Carole Groom, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
- Rosanne S. Foust, Member, City Council, City of Redwood City
- Ruth K. Nagler, Past President, City of San Mateo League of Women Voters
- Greg Munks, Sheriff
- Anna G. Eshoo, Member of Congress
- Jackie Speier, Member of Congress
Arguments in the official voter guide opposing Measure B included:
- "San Mateo County is different. And we believe that we’re better because we’re different."
- "Unlike in other counties, San Mateo County voters directly elect all five Supervisors, not just one. Measure B takes away your right to do that. Shouldn’t there be a better reason than 'everyone else is doing it' to take away your ability to hold all five Supervisors accountable?"
- "Critics claim that countywide races are too costly; are not competitive; are hard. Where’s the evidence? In the last two years we’ve had three very competitive races with excellent candidates. Supervisors are responsible for a $1.7 billion budget to support critical services ranging from protecting children and the elderly to ensuring timely responses to 9-1-1 calls. These are services for everyone. With Supervisors elected countywide, no one region of the County gets special treatment because Supervisors must consider the whole County when they make decisions."
- "The ability of voters to elect all five Supervisors has resulted in San Mateo County being one of the best run counties in California. San Mateo County has consistently earned the highest bond ratings among all California counties, saving taxpayer money."
Other arguments that have been made against Measure B included:
- Carole Groom: "I think it's a governance issue. You really do have to know as much about East Palo Alto as Hillsborough, as much about the coastside as Belmont. If you run countywide you are forced to understand the different geographies and different people who live in this county."
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
|Measure B: "Shall the San Mateo County Charter be amended so that each member of the Board of Supervisors will cease to be elected by an at-large vote of all the voters in the County but is instead elected only by the voters of his or her district?"|