Monday, May 30, 2011

Redistricting - serious, fun

Did you know that I have spent every Monday night for the past month (save this one) at the City Council chambers at City Hall? I am doing so because I have the honor of serving as an at-large member of the Sacramento Redistricting Citzens Advisory Committee. The committee consists of 14 members-- 9 appointed by the City Council and the Mayor and 5 by the Pensions and Public Employees Committee through an open application process (which is how I came to be appointed)-- and has been tasked with reviewing submissions from the public and making recommendations to the City Council regarding the boundaries of these districts. Ultimately, the City Council has the final say on how the districts are drawn, but I think that as long as the committee engages in an open, transparent and logical approach to evaluating the maps and developing its recommendations, then the City Council has considerable incentive to use the recommendations as the basis for its process, and to not deviate too dramatically from them.

We are doing this because every ten years, the city has to redraw its district boundaries based on Census results. Since the last time the district boundaries were drawn, the city's population has increased by 14%, and the majority of that growth has occurred in the Natomas area.
To leave this imbalance in place would violate the doctrine of "one person, one vote" (aka equipopulous distribution), since, as the map shows, District 1 has doubled in size since the last time districts were drawn (in 2001).

In addition to ensuring districts of equal size, the committee should also be sensitive to the provisions of the Voting Rights Act-- which, for the purposes of our process, means avoiding drawing districts to prevent minorities that could have constituted the majority within a district from having such a majority. This has to fit within an overall redistricting framework that keeps districts compact and contiguous where practicable, preserves neighborhoods and other community boundaries to the extent possible, reflects cognizance of geographic and topographic features and is mindful of the desires of various communities of interest.

The deadline to submit maps to the city was May 16th. We received a total of 37 maps, which can be found at this link. Since then, we've eliminated several maps because they did not maintain relatively equal populations.

Aside from equal population, the committee has yet to prioritize these criteria within an evaluative framework. Last Monday, we directed staff to provide qualitative assessments of how well or how poorly each map satisfies the criteria. I imagine we may vote to prioritize these criteria next week.

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