EDA elections extension a point of contention

Resolution for Exeter District Ambulance by-district elections puts two members in same district, throws off extension procedures

By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

EXETER – The time to file for candidacy if you live in a district whose incumbent chose not to run is basically right now. Extension periods were released by the Tulare County Elections Office last Friday, Aug. 10 and not everyone is in agreement over what qualifies for an extension, in particular for Exeter District Ambulance’s (EDA) new District 2.

 Like some other governing bodies in Tulare County, EDA’s at-large election system was challenged under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. And as of Jan. 29, 2018 the EDA Board, comprised of appointed members Adam Pfenning and Diana Mendez, along with Tony Miller who was elected in lieu in 2016, voted unanimously in favor of a resolution shifting the EDA to by-district elections.

Before, in an at-large system board member terms were staggered, meaning three of the five board seats would be up in one election year, and the remaining two board seats would be up the following election year. And every voter in the district would be allowed to vote for the candidates running for EDA on the ballot. Now under a by-district election system, the same staggering elections take place but candidates run to represent a portion (district) of the EDA’s jurisdiction, as long as they live in that district. And voters can only vote for the candidate who is running to represent their district.

Tulare County Registrar of Voters Michelle Baldwin says section 3 part D in EDA’s resolution states, “Members of the Board shall be elected in District 2 and 3 beginning at the general municipal election in November 2018, and every four years thereafter.” In other words, only Pfenning or Miller can represent the district. At the end of the incumbent filing period last Friday, Aug. 10, only Pfenning who was listed as an incumbent along with Miller had submitted paperwork to run. Baldwin said because Miller was also listed as an incumbent and did not file candidacy paperwork he is no longer eligible to file.

However, the seat still met the requirements for an extension through Wednesday, Aug. 15, which is granted when incumbents do not file to run for the seat they already occupying. The elections office says it would have taken both Miller and Pfenning filing to prevent the extension.

EDA counsel Hilda Montoya says there was a difference of opinion between her and the elections office and what qualifies as an incumbent. Particularly as it pertains to this resolution as section 4 states, “No term of any member of the Board that commenced prior to the effective date of this resolution shall be affected by adoption of this resolution.”

Because Miller was elected in lieu in 2016 to a four year term he can serve his full term which ends in 2020. But if nobody files for District 2 as of the deadline on Wednesday, Aug. 15 and Pfenning goes on to win, he’ll serve a four year term. If Miller is still living in the district at the time he will not be able to run until 2022.

Elections for districts 1,4 and 5 will be held in 2020, until then the positions will be filled by appointment.

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