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 banner - the basics

How many people are on the City Council?

Five council members elected to four-year terms represent Palm Desert residents. This will not change.

 What is changing in Palm Desert’s election process?

Starting in November 2020, Palm Desert will move from an at-large election process where voters across the city vote for all members of the City Council to a district system. Voters in each district area will choose their representatives, who must also live in that district area.

How will the two-district election process work?

The City has created a new downtown district from which one council member will be elected. The remaining four council members will continue to be elected at-large from the surrounding district. You can view a map with the district boundaries here.

Are these new boundaries permanent?

No. The boundaries of the districts will be revisited in 2021 once the data from the 2020 Census is available. This process will ensure that the districts continue to proportionally represent all Palm Desert residents.

When does this system go into place? 

This new system will be implemented as part of the November 2020 election. The current system of at-large representation will remain in place until the election.

banner - november 2020

When will the next election take place?

Three Council seats in Palm Desert - one in District One and two in District Two - are up for election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. 

How will Vote-by-Mail work?

The 2020 election will look different than previous elections. Due to COVID-19, the state legislature passed a bill in June 2020 that requires that each county send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters to minimize in-person interactions at polling centers. The County will send these ballots out starting on October 5, 2020. Vote-by-mail ballots must be turned in to an elections official by the close of polls on Election Day (8 p.m. on November 3, 2020) or postmarked on or before election day. The City will provide more information about alternative options for voting, such as ballot drop boxes and in-person sites, in the coming months.

How can I determine what district I live in?

Please use our interactive map. If you still have questions, please contact the City Clerk’s office.

Who can run for Council?

If you are interested in running for City Council, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • You must be a registered voter and resident of the district that you are running to represent on the City Council. The City Clerk’s office confirms this with the Riverside County Registrar of Voters. You can locate your voting district using our interactive map.
  • You must at least 18 years old.
  • You must never have been convicted of a felony.
  • You must be a United States citizen.

Will there be Ranked Choice Voting this year?

No. Due to financial and logistical pressures related to COVID-19, the City has postponed implementation of Ranked Choice Voting until 2022.

 Banner - how did we get here

The innovative two-district election process is the result of the City’s legal settlement related to the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). This settlement embraces the goals of the CVRA and preserves the integrity and unity of the community while saving the City millions in potential legal fees.

Why two districts instead of five?

The two-district solution, which is described in the legal settlement and supported by the City Council, largely preserves the election system that has helped Palm Desert become a prosperous and cohesive community over the last 50 years. This solution also embraces the intent of the California Voting Rights Act and protects the City from costly CVRA-based legal challenges.

What is the California Voting Rights Act?

In 2001, the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) was enacted to implement California’s constitutional guarantees of equal protection and the right to vote. Jurisdictions can be sued if they elect their governing body using an at-large system rather than a system with districts. If a jurisdiction chooses to argue against the suit and loses in court, the jurisdiction must change its election system and pay for attorneys, experts and other expenses incurred by the City and the plaintiffs. Jurisdictions that choose to comply with the plaintiffs' requests incur fewer legal expenses and must follow a set timeline to transition to district elections.

What are the terms of the settlement?

The settlement creates a new downtown district represented by one elected City Council member as well as a larger surrounding district from which four Council members will be elected at-large. The new downtown district includes neighborhoods in the San Pablo Avenue, Civic Center and El Paseo areas. The settlement also calls for the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting, which will happen in 2022.

What role did community members have in this decision?

Over several months, the City held two public open houses and five public audiences during City Council meetings to receive input from the public on the district boundaries. Hundreds of Palm Desert residents attended these events, and several residents submitted maps for the Council’s consideration. The Council took community input into account when determining the district boundaries. 

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked Choice Voting is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference. This system is used for state primary, congressional, and presidential (2020) elections in Maine and in certain local jurisdictions across the nation, including some in California. 

Why don’t we have Ranked Choice Voting this year? 

The City had planned to implement rank-choice voting in 2020, allowing voters to more comprehensively express their candidate preferences. However, due to financial and logistical difficulties related to COVID-19, the City has postponed implementation of the ranked choice voting system until 2022.


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