Every ten years, a full Census is conducted by the United States government. Lots of data is gathered and used in many ways. There are financial and political impacts. One of the political impacts is a process known as redistricting. Government entities throughout the nation will use census data to draw or adjust the representative boundaries on a National, State, County, City, or Boards and Commissions level. On the state level, you’ve probably already seen reports that one state will lose a House of Representatives seat, and another is gaining one or two seats based on the data and shifting populations. California is projected to lose one seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in its history.
Each state has its own method for redrawing these boundaries. This article will just look at California’s process. The actual census data to be used won’t be available until this fall but the process is already underway preparing for drawing new boundaries as needed. As information becomes available, the Community Voice will cover those efforts for our city councils and school boards. This article’s focus then is on the state process.
As reported by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, “In 2008, California voters passed the Voters First Act, authorizing the creation of the Independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw new State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization district lines. In 2010, the Voters First Act for Congress gave the Commission the responsibility of drawing new Congressional districts following every census.” More information can be found at: www.wedrawthelinesca.org.
The Commission will begin drawing electoral maps when the census data becomes available, and they will follow a set of criteria that is specified in the California Constitution. The six criteria in priority order are as follows. First, districts must be of nearly equal population to comply with the United States Constitution. Next, they must comply with the Voting Rights Act. That act was put in place to “ensure that minorities have a fair opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.” They also must be “drawn contiguously.” This means all parts of the district are connected to each other.
The fourth priority is that districts “must minimize the division of counties, cities, neighborhoods and communities of interest to the extent possible.” For example, keeping the citizens of Rohnert Park
in the same voting district. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen that our residents are in different districts, but it shouldn’t happen unless one of the higher priority criteria such as equal population comes into play. The fifth criteria would be those districts “should be geographically compact such that nearby areas of population are not bypassed for more distant populations.” For example, if the district was drawn in such a way that it stretched from Petaluma through West Sonoma County north towards Windsor and Healdsburg, by-passing Cotati, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa. The final criteria is where practicable “each Senate District should consist of two complete and adjacent Assembly Districts, and Board of Equalization districts should consist of ten complete and adjacent State Senate Districts.”
Lots of the information to complete this work will be taken from the census data and obtained directly from city and county information. But the commission also wants to hear from “communities of interest” (criteria four). So, they set up a process where you and communities of interest can provide input. Information for those in person and virtual meetings can be found on the website listed above. They held their first on-line meeting on June 10. You can also submit your comments directly without attending a meeting by visiting: https://drawmycacommunity.org/. There is an online tool that is available in fourteen languages to assist. Tutorials are also available.
Pedro Toledo who resides in Petaluma, is currently the Commissioner representing Sonoma County. Toledo serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of Petaluma Health Center which is one of the largest non-profit organizations in Sonoma County. According to the commission website, “He serves on the board of numerous organizations, including the Redwood Empire Food Bank, the Sonoma County Workforce Investment Board, and the National Association of Community Health Center (NACHC) Agricultural Committee.”