Carpinteria District Elections

Coastal View News

Letter to the editor:

The City of Carpinteria would benefit from district elections. Many cities in California have instituted district elections in recent years. Just in Santa Barbara County, the cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Goleta have implemented district elections since 2015. Read More

CVN Letter to the Editor

As a resident of Carpinteria, I believe our city should establish district elections for the city council. District elections would lead to more people running for city council who currently cannot afford the cost of a political campaign that encompasses the entire city. Read More


Carpinteria City Council Will Consider Switch to District Elections After Threat of Litigation

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Coastal View News

City to consider district elections

 The special meeting on July 31 will begin at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 5775 Carpinteria Ave. Mayor Fred Shaw requested that a Spanish translator be on hand. 

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Racially polarized voting, vote dilution, and abridgment of Latino voting rights characterize elections in the City of Carpinteria.  ! The first chart presents the number of total candidates in each Carpinteria City Council election since 1994, the number of candidates elected, the number of Latino candidates, and the number of successful Latino candidates: 

1. Carpinteria City Council Elections Since 1994

Year      Total Cand.s       Success Cand.s       Lat. Cand.s      Success Lat. Cand.s

1994               8                             3                            0                              0 

1996               6                             2                            2                              0 

1998               6                             3                            2                              0

2000               4                             2                            1                              0

2002               5                             3                            0                              0 

2004               4                             2                            1                              1 

2006               5                             3                            0                              0 

2008               4                             2                            1                              1 

2010               5                             3                            0                              0 

2012               5                             2                            0                              0 

2014               3                             3                            0                              0 

2016               3                             2                            0                              0 

Total:            58                            30                           7                              2

The two successful candidacies in 2004 and 2008 were the same person, so only one Latino has been elected to the Carpinteria City Council since 1994.  

The chart on the next page presents total votes for all candidates for Carpinteria City Council since 1994, votes for Latino candidates, and votes for Latino candidates as a percentage of all votes: 

2. Carpinteria City Council Elections Since 1994, Votes

                Year                    Total Votes                     Latino Cand.s                    Percentage 

                1994                      12,705                                      0                                       0          

                1996                        9,429                                  2,201                                 23.3 

                1998                      11,545                                 2,992                                  25.9 

                2000                        8,821                                 1,706                                  19.3 

                2002                        9,803                                      0                                       0 

                2004                        8,951                                 2,392                                  26.7 

                2006                      10,262                                      0                                       0 

                2008                        9,261                                 2,484                                  26.8 

                2010                      11,113                                      0                                       0 

                2012                        8,883                                      0                                       0  

                2014                                     (no election--candidates appointed) 

                2016                        8,491                                      0                                       0  


 Total:                                  109,264                              11,775                                  10.8

 As can be seen, only about one-tenth of votes since 1994 in Carpinteria have been for Latino candidates (successful or unsuccessful), in a city that is more than 40% Latino.  

The chart on the next page is of California state ballot measures in the City of Carpinteria since 1994 in which there is evidence of racially polarized voting: 

3. Racially Polarized Voting on California State Ballot Measures in City of Carpinteria Since 1994

                                   Year                Ballot Measure                Purpose 

                                  1994                          187               No services for undocumented aliens 

                                  1994                          1B                 State school bonds 

                                  1996                          209               No affirmative action

                                  2000                          14                 Bonds for libraries and literacy  

                                  2000                          26                 Majority vote for school bonds   

                                  2000                          39                 55% vote for local school bonds   

                                  2004                          55                 State school bonds 

                                  2006                          82                 Tax increase for preschools

According to the California Voting Rights Act: “A violation of Section 14027 [of the CVRA] is established if it is shown that racially polarized voting occurs in elections for members of the governing body of the political subdivision or in elections incorporating other electoral choices by the voters of the political subdivision” (Sec. 14028(a)). Pursuant to the California Voting Rights Act, district elections must be instituted in the City of Carpinteria. 

As well as electoral deficiencies that necessitate district elections in the City of Carpinteria, there are other factors pursuant to the California Voting Rights Act that merit further consideration, including the “extent to which members of a protected class bear the effects of past discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and health, which hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process,” and a “history of discrimination” (Sec. 14028(e)). 

The following chart presents comparisons between the white and Latino populations in Carpinteria in socioeconomic characteristics pertaining to education, employment, and health in the 2015 United States Census Bureau Community Survey estimate:  

4. Comparison Between White and Latino Populations In Socioeconomic Characteristics in Carpinteria


                                                                          White Population                       Latino Population 


Adults with high school degree                               97.5%                                         50.1% 

Adults with bachelorʼs degree                                 51.6%                                            7.6% 


Per capita income                                                   $37,349                                       $24,397     

Home ownership                                                       58.6%                                          43.3% 


No health insurance                                                   9.1%                                           20.7%

Carpinteria District Elections

Carpinteria History of Discrimination

 Regrettably, segregation of Latino residents was historically practiced in Carpinteria. This makes the case for establishing district elections in the City of Carpinteria even stronger than it would otherwise be, and--pursuant to the California Voting Rights Act--more probable of being established. As amply documented in John D. McCafferty, Aliso School: ‘For the Mexican Children’ (2003), explicit, de jure segregation was formally practiced in Carpinteria public schools through 8th grade from about 1920 to 1947: “Mexican-American elementary school pupils were required to attend a school ‘for the Mexican children,’ as school board minutes called them.” 1 McCafferty provides this description of a petition from non-Latino residents to the Carpinteria school board: “With the clearest possible bias and intention of segregation, it simply cited ‘the necessity of removing the Mexican children from the Junior High School and to provide instruction for them in Aliso school.’” 2 Consistent with the practice in racially segregated communities in the southern United States, the area in which most Latinos lived was called derogatory names, including “Mexican Town” and “the Mexican Colony,” and segregation extended to various civic and community organizations: “St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on Seventh Street was often referred to as ‘the Mexican church.’” 3  


McCafferty writes as well: “Historically, Aliso school was seen mostly as a feeder school for the lemon industry. Those Aliso students who continued into high school were not encouraged equally with the whites ... With occasional exceptions, the Mexican children were viewed as people destined to be uneducated workers. Margaret Sanchez Burkey recalled that as late as the 1950s, she was actively discouraged from taking college-preparatory classes, solely because of her Mexican heritage.” 4 

Jim Campos, Dave Moore, Tom Moore, Lou Panizzon, and the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History write in Carpinteria: Images of America (2007):

The Mexican presence in Carpinteria began to be felt by the 1920s. Labor was needed to repair the railroads, build roads, remove brush and rubble, and most significantly help farmers with the tending of their crops. The lemon industry in particular was a year-round business and benefited from a non-migratory labor pool. 

Mexican families settling in Carpinteria were sometimes excluded from equal participation in the community. For example, ‘Whites Only’  policies were enforced in the seating arrangement at the local movie theater. Mexicans were prevented from buying real estate in certain areas of the community.5 

Carpinteria’s discriminatory past is, unfortunately, not merely of historical interest or relegated to the history books. As a result of its history of discrimination and segregation, school attendance, housing patterns, and community involvement have been affected to the present. Latinos did not become as involved in Carpinteria from the start of its municipal incorporation in 1965 as they otherwise would have. They were not part of the civic power structure, and therefore did not participate as much in city council elections or other municipal affairs. Latinos did not run for city council because they did not think they could win.  


With respect to Carpinteria’s history of discrimination, the following quotes from McCafferty’s Aliso School: ‘For the Mexican Children’ also demonstrate this discrimination: 

One non-war item that made front page news in 1942 Carpinteria was the April opening of the Del Mar Theater .... The newspaper did not carry any news about the racial segregation that took place in the Del Mar Theater, and in a whites-only pool hall on the second floor of the building. For about 10 years, Mexican moviegoers were ordered to sit on the right bank of seats; the larger center section and the left second section were reserved for whites. [p. 92] 

In 2003, when he was 77, Zip Gonzalez ... said that prejudice in the town was widespread in the 1940s, and ran deep. He told of a relative being severely beaten ... He also said a local Mexican man was beaten when he tried to integrate the upstairs pool hall... ‘And we couldn’t go to the main beach,’ he said. The ‘World’s Safest Beach’ ... was off-limits to Mexicans. [p. 95] 

Ed Rubio ... says the prejudice that he felt directed at him bothered him a great deal when he was an Aliso pupil. ‘Sometimes I would wake up at night, feeling really bad, and wonder, why did I have to be born a Mexican?’ [p. 96] 

‘The segregated experience at Aliso School did not measure up to the criteria expected from an integrated school.’ [p. 105]  


1 John D. McCafferty, Aliso School: ‘For the Mexican Children’ (Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2003), p. 6. 

2 Id., p. 45. 

3 Id., pp. 9-11. 

4 Id., p. 119. 

5 Jim Campos, Dave Moore, Tom Moore, Lou Panizzon, and the Carpinteria Valley Museum of History, Carpinteria: Images of America (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007), p. 37.  

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