Hey LA, Here’s What You Need To Know About Redistricting
Let’s take this opportunity to talk about the process that will influence elections and representation in California for the next 10 years — redistricting.
No, no, don’t click away!
Yes, redistricting sounds technical — because it is — but it’s also, to quote fellow KPCC + LAist reporter Libby Denkmann, “the most consequential process that impacts citizens’ representation in government and determines whose voices are heard by elected officials.”
So don’t worry about census data, commissions, maps, demographics and public hearings.
Think big picture.
Think about redistricting the way Common Cause local redistricting advocate José Del Río III does, like a comet: bright, predictable, yet mysterious. If you aren’t paying attention, you'll miss it. And if you miss it, you might regret it later.
“We call this the Halley's Comet of voting rights,” Del Río told our KPCC radio show AirTalk. “It comes by every 10 years — redistricting does — and then, you know, moves on.”
In that small window, with redistricting lighting the sky, there’s an opportunity to make change.
“Redistricting is really the foundational issue from which all issues stem from — whether it be climate change, ethics reforms, housing reforms, something on a national scale. Redistricting is the first issue you need to tackle because you need individuals in elected office that represent your ideals,” Del Río said.
So, yeah. It’s kind of a big deal.
If this is the first time you’re hearing about any of this, don’t worry. You still have time to make your voice heard. Not a lot of time but some time.
Here’s what you need to know.
(We’ll update this guide as you tell us what you want to know, too).
What Is Redistricting?
It’s the once-in-a-decade process by which a group of people (more about who in a second) look at changes in demographics and population revealed by the census, consider the community’s input, and redraw district lines for local, state, and federal elections.
Who Draws The New District Maps?
It depends. In some places, like Los Angeles County, as well as the redistricting done at the state level, the maps are drawn by independent commissions.
In other places, such as Orange County, the elected officials themselves will draw the new maps, though they’re required to consider your input in that process.
How Do They Decide Where To Draw The Lines?
This time around, the results were delayed due to the pandemic.
But, big picture, it showed that Los Angeles County’s growth is slowing, while Riverside and San Bernardino counties are growing at a much faster rate, according to KPCC/LAist politics reporter Libby Denkmann.
This is important because districts have to, more or less, represent an equal number of people. So if there are fewer people living in a district, the boundaries might have to shift to account for that change.
But they can’t just draw the lines however they want. There are a few basic rules that must be followed.
In drawing the lines, they cannot violate the Voting Rights Act — which, as the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission puts it, is “meant to protect ethnic residents like Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans to have a fair opportunity to elect a representative of their choice.”
And districts also have to be contiguous — meaning that you’d be able to get from one part of the district to another without crossing through another district. They’re also supposed to keep neighborhoods together whenever possible, which is why public testimony about “communities of interest” is so important.
As you can imagine, balancing that in a fair way can be quite a process.
How Do I Check On The Drawing Of My Congressional/State Senate/State Assembly District’s Boundaries?
A group called the 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission is tasked with drawing the boundaries for state senate, state assembly and congressional districts — taking into account the congressional seat California is going to lose by the 2022 midterms.
The line drawing itself is scheduled to ramp up in October, though the commission is already holding public meetings where members are discussing the public testimony shared so far and are giving some direction to the line drawers.
How Do I Check On Redistricting In My County?
Los Angeles County has its own independent redistricting commission, tasked with drawing the boundaries of the county’s five supervisorial districts. The commissioners, who meet both in-person and online, suggest you give any feedback you’d like them to consider by Sept. 30, before maps are drawn. (You’ll get another opportunity in November to give your input on their draft maps after they’re released.)
Orange County’s supervisors get to redraw districts themselves, though they’re still required to hold public hearings and solicit the public’s input on those boundaries.
Riverside County has an Advisory Redistricting Commission, which will create at least one proposed map, but the ultimate decision rests with the county Board of Supervisors. Members of the public can still attend public meetings or provide comment online.
San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors will make the final call — but they too have an Advisory Redistricting Commission, charged with providing the board at least two maps to consider. The commission is holding hybrid public meetings around the county, and is accepting draft maps and comments online as well.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors is holding public hearings on redistricting — and also accepts community of interest testimony and draft maps online.
What About My City Council Or School District’s Redistricting Process?
There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County, so unfortunately, we can’t list links to all of their redistricting procedures here. But a quick search of your city’s name + redistricting is a good place to start.
The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission is in the process of drafting the first version of its district maps (more about them in a second).
The Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission is holding “hybrid meetings” that you can attend either virtually or in person (at city hall).
LAUSD — by far the largest school district in California, and second largest in the nation — is undergoing its own redistricting process too. Its public hearings are scheduled for early October.
The stakes are high, as fellow KPCC/LAist reporter Kyle Stokes explained recently.
“The boundaries of [LAUSD’s] board districts are very likely to be re-drawn in coming weeks. Some of the changes could be dramatic,” he tweeted. “As staff told the #LAUSD Redistricting Commission [on Sept. 10], ‘we can’t just take the current map as it exists.’”
Oh, No — I’m Just Hearing About This Now! What If I Still Want To Give Feedback On The Maps?
In many cases, you still can — but best to do it soon. The impact of your feedback will depend on how far the process has gone for any particular commission.
In the city of L.A., for example, the City Council Redistricting Commission has held virtual meetings for months in each of the council districts, asking residents to tell them about their communities, how they’d define them geographically, and what makes them special. They also collected community maps using an online tool called Districtr. (You can see all the different maps submitted at that same link).
Much of that feedback has centered around what to do about Koreatown, which was divided into multiple districts last time around.
As my colleague Josie Huang reports:
For decades, Koreatown leaders have maintained the neighborhood lacks cohesive leadership, pointing to the paltry green space and rising homelessness as evidence. When constituents have a problem, they’re not sure where to turn for help. Should they dial up District 1, District 4, District 10 or District 13?
“The Commission has received an overwhelming amount of testimony requesting Koreatown unification,” reads a memo from a group of commissioners. ”The Commission has received both written and spoken testimony from the Koreatown Unification Task Force and residents alike, including a petition of over 4,500 signatures requesting Koreatown to be placed in one council district.”
The commission began using such input to begin drawing new maps on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21 . You will have some opportunities to provide feedback on those draft maps in virtual hearings in October before their scheduled adoption on Oct. 21.
Wait, I Still Have A Question! Or A Comment!
If you have a comment that you want to share with your redistricting commission as the members draw your district maps, you should visit their website and share your public comment, written testimony or map with the commissioners directly. (Here, for example, is where you can write directly to the state’s redistricting commission). A friendly reminder: whatever you submit is considered a public record that can be viewed by nosy neighbors and reporters like me.
But if you have a question or comment about the process that wasn’t answered here, and you think journalists from KPCC and LAist should look into, you can let us know by filling out the form below.
With additional reporting by Libby Denkmann