Registrar of Voters Confirms That if Measure C Fails Santa Clara Will Return to At-Large Districts

By Robert Haugh

There was a debate last night about Measure C. One of the major points of disagreement is what happens if Measure C fails.

The No Campaign was represented by Vice Mayor Karen Hardy and Councilman Raj Chahal.  They repeatedly said Santa Clara would have to maintain 6 districts because of a judge’s order.

But they didn’t read a San Jose Spotlight story written by Katie Lauer from yesterday. It’s a long story but here’s an important sentence:

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters confirmed Wednesday that if Measure C fails, the city will return to its illegal at-large elections.


That’s the same conclusion that City Attorney Brian Doyle came to and put in his “Impartial Analysis” that appears in the voter pamphlet.

According to Doyle, no one challenged his analysis when they could have. The Asian Law Alliance didn’t challenge it. And they’re the ones who sued the City in the first place.

The 49ers didn’t challenge Doyle’s analysis even though they’re spending over $600,000 to defeat Measure C.

So If you vote No on Measure C, we keep an illegal at-large voting system according to the City Attorney and the Registrar of Voters.

If you vote Yes on Measure C, we get 6 councilmembers in 3 districts, plus a directly elected mayor.


We had a chance to watch the Measure C debate at City Hall hosted by the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association (SVTA). It was well done.

Former San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant was a good moderator. He really did his homework on Measure C. He asked a lot of good questions.

The Yes on Measure C side was represented by Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill. They did a  good job citing reasons for the city’s appeal. They got out some detailed info we hadn’t heard before.

Gillmor said 3 of the last 10 elections presented in the court case were racially polarized. But that’s too low to meet the legal test for racially polarized voting.

So Judge Thomas Kuhnle amended the data to show that 5 of 10 were racially polarized. But to get to 5, Kuhnle had to lower the threshold from 95 percent probability to 80 percent. Wow.

Hardy and Chahal were strong in their arguments about how smaller districts help candidates.  They both won in 2018 and didn’t have to raise a lot of money for their campaigns. But they never really made the case that just because it’s good for them, it’s also good for Santa Clara.

Chahal also focused a lot on the court’s judgement. He held it up and read from it multiple times.

Hardy made a blunder that may come back to bite her.

Constant asked how important it is for Santa Clarans to vote for Council candidates in each election.

Hardy didn’t think it was important. She said “to say that Santa Clarans are lining up and beating down the doors to vote every time doesn’t make sense to me.”

O’Neill rebutted Hardy by saying that “being able to vote is very important.” O’Neill cited high voter turnout stats in Santa Clara and said that “to say that people don’t really care if they vote or not is a very disingenuous comment.”

Overall, it was a good debate with a lot of helpful info. We hope undecided voters watch it before they vote. You can watch it on YouTube at this link. It’s a little more than an hour long.

We also hope the SVTA host more debates. They created a good format and did a nice job.



  1. I think the correct conclusion should be that the city will attempt to return to an at-large system if the measure fails. However, the city didn’t get to do what it wanted last time, so it remains to be seen if the courts will once again step in with its own remedies. Since neither a Measure-C nor an at-large system would likely satisfy the courts in a ongoing or future court challenge, the city is likely wasting time and money on delaying the inevitability of single-representative districts.

    This is sad because the race angle of the currently divisive debate is a red herring. Single-representative districts are widespread because such districts enforce local accountability for council members and give residents a single point of contact for raising local issues and complaints. The city is willing to spend the city residents’ money in an exercise of ultimately futile obstinacy.

  2. I don’t think I’ve beat around the bush while fending off racist comments from the whitest man trying to make a career out of City politics. Best of luck this November.

  3. JB Fleck still living in SF? Why the continued, intense interest in our election? Do you have a dog in this race?

    ABecker, Any idea how many words have been traded back and forth about this on social media, print etc? Has to be huge. But with all that I have yet to see anyone posit why the 49er$ are spending all this money.And they aren’t talking. And does the 49er$ think a failed C will bring at-large back or stay with 6 districts? They are betting on a fail but what do their legal experts tell them the outcome will be? Will they want at-large so candidates will need big money?
    For someone to say this doesn’t matter is crazy, IMHO. It matters because we could well be screwed by unintended consequences as we were with J.
    ABecker, you complain about the 49er$ money pushing J but don’t mind it fighting C.
    What is behind the curtain????

  4. The only thing I agree with Patty is the debate was done well and Pete Constant did an exceptional job. In case you didn’t see your boy in the video, he was in the back of the room earning meal credits.

    • Yes Richard Bonito we know its you…. Love ya

      changes are a coming and the time are a changing

  5. What i am tired of hearing is 49ers influence on this election. it is about voting rights, not the 49ers.

    This isn’t the first or probably the last time they influence. it is not illegal.

    I am concerned how the POA, Stand up For Santa Clara and city gets away with its bias backing of Yes on Measure C without filing for it with the city. To me, it is the same as the niners, outside forces working towards a ballot measure.

    The last I remember the 49ers or Levi’s stadium is not on the ballot…..we need to stop making it about this.

    The district question is, that is the focus we need.

    The niners have a right to oppose it. But my major question is for our Mayor…. with all do respect, but why is 49er money so bad now but was ok when you, Kathy Watanabe, Debi Davis, etc pushed Measure J which was funded heavily by the team. Money that outspent the No on Measure J folks and created Santa Clara Plays Fair before Stand up 4 Santa Clara arrived.

    Why is it ok to take money in 2010 from the niners and now today it isn’t? Id love an answer from Mayor Gillmor who was part of Santa Clarans for Economic Progress and major players investors behind Measure J. Karen Hardy said it best, Those on the other side (2020 Yes on C supporters) were the ones who brought the Niners here while Hardy opposed it.

    From what I also here and recently saw in pictures is council-member Watanabe was front row at the NFC championship game vs. the Packers. It’s funny she goes to the games with good seats while bashing the team in public. Hypocrisy. She also deletes a comment and post that says city’s support of YES ON C….. no explanation. If you are not guilty why did you delete it ?

    I question many of these motives….

    I must remind everyone, how suddenly our city thinks it is above the law. A judge makes a decision the people have to abide by it.
    If i get in trouble with the law and the Judge makes his decision, there is no “I don’t agree”. If i violate his orders, I GO TO JAIL.
    Santa Clara thinks it is above the law…. it makes its own laws and does not even follow them (POA, SU4S) but only holds the Niners accountable.

    There is no way the YES ON C campaign ran on $0, impossible and unethical. Mass emails count as campaigning and Stand up for Santa Clara needs to file paper work as well as the POA for their polls. IT IS FAIR

    If measure C fails, it is banned that Santa Clara hold at-large council elections. The misinformation on this is wrong. When a judge bans something it is banned there is no expiration date.

    Side note, I remember in 2018 we had to pull teeth to put on forums, debates anything related to that at City Hall with much pushback. Now it is ok we have forums at city hall ?

    Overall, I think the debate was great. Some good laughs and both sides did well and presented themselves professionally. Both were prepared to debate.

    Councilmember O’Neil said it best other night at council meeting that everyone is ‘Engaged and passionate about their city and the process”, i totally agree, we all love Santa Clara.

    • Gees, Anthony Becker, or whatever your name is. I hope you feel better after taking that dump and that you are being paid by the word for all these one-sided arguments you keep having with yourself. Sheesh!

  6. My family just spent the last hour watching the Debate. Thank you for all the information on this subject, and I totally understand why the “Special Interest” (49ers) are so invested in trying to alter yet another local election.
    The more they can get involved to, alter, manipulate, shape, confuse, distract and fracture the residents of Santa Clara the better for them.
    To me, this is even easier to read than the “offense / defense” the 49ers put out there in the 4th quarter of the last Super Bowl!!
    Santa Clara residents stay focused, stay educated, stay vigilant. I do not want Santa Clara to turn into a 49er Company town. I will do whatever I can do to support those who support our City.
    I trust my fellow residents, and the Santa Clara Charter Review Committee. They have suggested that we vote Yes on Measure C. I hope others feel the same way I do.

    Field Family has voted “Yes” on Measure C.

    Burt Field
    56 year Resident of Santa Clara
    Buchser High 1978

  7. Well, you spoke to the wrong person. It is not the registrar who determines the issue, but rather the courts. You see, in the United States we have three branches of government. There was this case back in the day called Marbury v. Madison. You may have read about it back in sixth grade. It created a doctrine of Judicial Review giving the courts the ultimate power to determine the legality of executive and legislative actions. Although the mayor and yes on C folk seem (bizarrely) to believe otherwise, yes, the doctrine of Judicial Review even applies to the City of Santa Clara. Shocking, perhaps.
    In turn, doesn’t matter if it’s a provision in the City Charter, an ordinance, a policy written or unwritten, it’s subject to judicial review as here. This is an important point in understanding how our Republic functions. Any questions, ask.
    The issue of what happens if Measure C fails, was easily answered in Jauregui v. City of Palmdale linked. In fact it was so easily answered the court summarily disposed of the argument, as here.
    Look, the court explained, the CVRA beats any City Charter, ordinance or policy. So, you can’t enforce a provision in any which violates the CVRA. If Santa Clara were to hold an at large election of measure c were to fail. There neither is nor can be a reversion to at large voting because at large voting in Santa Clara for Council seats has already been found illegal by the court. This is the Jauregui case where the City of Palmdale tried to pull such a stunt and the court correctly slammed the City with an injunction stopping the foolishness. Ugh.
    Just makes sense.
    Still, can’t understand why the City seeks to throw millions more of residents money down this rat hole when there is an easy out. Vote NO on C.

  8. I attended the debate in-person and agree it was well-argued and well-moderated. Personally, I thought the Chahal-Hardy team had more prepared arguments, although I agree Hardy’s statement about Santa Claran’s not being eager to vote was offputting!

    1 disagreement on point of fact I also took away was “how will elections be conducted if Measure C fails”,

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