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What I Learned About Redistricting In LA And Why It Matters

A hand draws a dark wavy line that weaves through a handful of icons representing people. The line creates a chasm between the people. One side of the line is yellow, the other is blue.
Redistricting sounds technical but it’s also, “the most consequential process that impacts citizens’ representation in government and determines whose voices are heard by elected officials.”
(Illustration by Alborz Kamalizad / LAist / Photograph by Fabian Centeno / Unsplash)
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Over the past few weeks, I’ve become somewhat of a local politics junkie. Between the sheriff department's unusual investigation into a Los Angeles County Supervisor and the L.A. City Council leaked tape, there’s so much to dissect about how these government agencies are supposed to be run and what the people in charge of them are actually doing. Politics is messy.

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All of these things are happening right before a pivotal election where we’re deciding things like who will be L.A.’s new mayor after 9 years of Eric Garcetti and whether to keep a sheriff in office who has a history of controversial, adversarial actions.

Redistricting and power

So, with all that said, I’ve been really curious about POWER and how the actions of those in powerful positions can directly impact our lives for decades to come. Right now, the state has an investigation underway into the redistricting process and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer called for a special election next spring to get voters to approve a new process to redraw council district lines. After listening to three city council members — who represent about 260,000 people each — spout racist remarks and talk openly about manipulating those districts, my colleagues and I wanted to know more about redistricting and the steps to it.

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How To LA podcast host Brian De Los Santos recently spoke with José Del Río about how our system works. Del Río is a political consultant who was active last year in the city’s 2021 redistricting efforts.

Redistricting is the process of drawing lines for political representation based on changes in demographics and population. That information comes from the most recent U.S. Census. One key challenge is coming up with boundaries that add up to roughly equal numbers of residents. They’re also supposed to keep neighborhoods largely in one district AND ensure underrepresented communities can “have a fair opportunity to elect a representative of their choice”. Redistricting happens every 10 years.

Here are the steps in the city’s process now: 

  1. The City Council appoints an independent commission to draw new district maps
  2. The Independent commission is able to make a recommendation to the City Council.
  3. Councilmembers then review the map to make any adjustments…or they can just throw it out entirely and start over. 

During this process community feedback is heard. So, to me, that sounds like a fairly normal process, right? Yeah, well, then you hear on that leaked tape, those city council members casually talking about changing another councilmember's jurisdiction to get more power for their own…which is essentially gerrymandering.

Why is this important?

“Redistricting and voting rights as a whole are really the foundational right from which all of the rights stem from,” Del Río said. “It determines who gets funding, how much funding, funding for what. It determines who your neighbors are, it determines who you need to go to for assistance with housing. These are the individuals who have the most power over our daily lives.”

Del Río thinks we need to revisit L.A.’s city charter to prevent a scandal like this from happening again. The last revision to the charter was adopted 23 years ago. The city, he says, was “so much different back then.” He believes the charter needs to change regularly so it “is growing with us.”

Listen to Brian’s conversation with Del Río about power, redistricting and what it means in L.A.

As always, stay happy and healthy, folks. There’s more news below — just keep reading.

More headlines

(AKA The News You Need After You Stop Hitting Snooze)

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  • Speaking of elections, in-person voting starts this weekend! More than 100 voting centers will be available across Los Angeles County. 
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  • The composer of Jordan Peele’s horror films, Michael Abels, has created music for the new opera playing in L.A., Omar, the real-life story of an Islamic scholar who was taken from his home in the West African coast and forced to be a slave in South Carolina. His essays and autobiography are among the few first person accounts of U.S. enslavement. 
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Día de los Muertos and more...

Wait! One more thing...how to have the most spooky, absolutely grotesque Halloween outside...

In this 1931 b&w film still, Dracula is about to attack a sleeping woman.
Carlos Villarias (as Count Dracula) and Carmen Guerrero (as Lucia) star in the 1931 Spanish-language version of Dracula, directed by George Melford.
(Universal Pictures/Photofest)

By the looks of this weekend’s list of events, it’s going to be one helluva of a nail-biting, hair-raising time for all Angelenos. There’s Mama G’s Horror Camp Musical Massacre, a screening of the original Frankenstein with a live orchestra and the Hocus-Pocus Film Festival at the Alex Theater in Glendale.

Also, festivities begin this weekend for Dia de los Muertos, which is on Tuesday, Nov. 1. This Saturday, for example, you could stop by the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday anytime between 9 a.m. and midnight for the Dia y Noche de los Muertos. There will be family-friendly performances, crafts for the kids and culinary vendors. Just an FYI: the price for general admission and VIP increase at 5 p.m. Check out all the events in this weekend’s list of wicked, creepy, cool things to do.

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