After holding hearings the past few months, the Coast Community College District board voted Tuesday to adopt a district-based trustee election system that is expected to go into effect by November 2018.
In the current system, trustees — who oversee Orange Coast, Golden West and Coastline Community colleges — live in and represent one of five geographical zones of an area that includes Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and other cities.
However, board candidates have been elected under an at-large system by voters throughout the district. Under the new rules, they will be chosen only by voters who live in each zone.
The board approved the change on a 3-2 vote, with trustees Jim Moreno and Jerry Patterson dissenting.
Coast held five public hearings on the matter, starting with one Aug. 2 that featured some verbal sparring.
Patterson, a former congressman and mayor of Santa Ana, argued at the time that having a seven-member board would better represent minorities in the district and help get them elected.
The board will remain at five seats for the time being, though under the resolution it approved, it will consider expanding to seven by the 2020 election.
Final approval of the change will rest with the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.
Coast's at-large system was threatened with lawsuits this year by critics who argued that it unfairly enabled the preferences of white voters to overwhelm those of minorities.
Newport Beach lawyer William Hoang pointed to the 2016 battle for the seat Patterson ultimately won as an example of the problem. The attorney argued that Vong Nguyen, a Vietnamese American, had strong support in the Vietnamese community but lost because of bloc voting by the district's majority non-Vietnamese voters.