Jim Ross: Redistricting, What Just Happened? And What’s Next?

16 Jun

This guest post was written by Jim Ross, the owner of Jim Ross Consulting, a Political Consulting and Public Relations firm located in Oakland. His firm has run dozens of campaigns including those of Mayor Gavin Newsom (D-SF) and Governor Ted Kulongosk (D-OR).

The first California legislative district draft maps have been released. After months of public testimony, the California Redistricting Commission has unleashed what is being called a political “earthquake” or “tsunami”. What the Commission members have done fundamentally changes the political make-up of California

You can find the maps posted by the Commission here: http://wedrawthelines.ca.gov/

Redistricting Partners has posted maps and data with descriptions of each district: http://redistrictingpartners.com/citizens-commission-first-drafts/

Meridian Pacific has posted maps with detailed data: http://www.mpimaps.com/

Changes for Oakland

The legislative districts in and around Oakland did not change as significantly as they did in other parts of the State. For the most part Districts were made more geographically compact.

The new districts split Oakland into two State Assembly districts. The majority of the City is combined in a district that includes the City of Alameda and San Leandro. Assemblymember Sandre Swanson currently resides in newly drawn district but he cannot run due to term limits.

Most of Oakland Council District One has been drawn into a district that includes all of Berkeley and runs into Contra Costa County to include part of Richmond. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, currently resides in the district and she is eligible to run for reelection.

Oakland is joined with most of the western portion of Alameda and Contra Costa County in the State Senate. Senator Loni Hancock currently lives in this district and she is eligible for another term in the State Senate.

With the exception of a very small portion of City Council Districts One and Four all of Oakland is in a Congressional District that includes Berkeley, Richmond and San Leandro. Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents 60% of this District.

WHAT IS NEXT?

We’ve been following the redistricting process closely, and we have been impressed the earnest, hard work put in by the commissioners. They see this process as a partnership between the Commission and the public, and as a group, they listen and care about public input.

If you don’t like how a district is drawn in this first draft, go to a hearing or submit comments on the Commission’s website. The members may not agree with your suggested change, but they will take your thoughts seriously.

The current maps are a first draft and they will change. In some cases those changes could be significant. From remarks made by commissioners during the hearing to release the maps and by groups afterward, we have some initial impressions about what changes the Commission might be considering and what important issues that still need to be decided.

District Numbers: One of the most important next steps will be the numbering of districts, especially State Senate Districts, since this will determine when legislators must face their next election.

The configuration of the “North Coast District” that runs from Marin County to the Oregon Border: Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey has been a harsh critic of this proposed district, as have many others in Marin and Sonoma Counties. The Commission stated when releasing these maps that it would consider this input before the next set of maps is released in July. Congresswoman Woolsey’s public position on this process is of note. She is one of very few elected officials who have expressed an opinion during this process. The positive reaction of the Commission might encourage other elected officials to make their positions know.

Fremont split: The Santa Clara Congressional District that splits the city of Fremont will also be on the Commission’s agenda in the next round of this process.

Hispanic voters: The Commission will also have to improve the representation of Hispanic voters in Congress. Over the past ten years, California has added more than 3 million Hispanic voters, but Hispanic representation is unlikely to increase significantly under this draft plan.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING

Now is the time to get involved. If you like or don’t like the current maps, your opinion and the opinion of your group matters. Here are a few thoughts on how best to express your opinion:

Be specific

The more specific an issue and a proposed change the more seriously it will be taken. The Commission will get thousands of comments, and specific, data driven testimony and comments will be more persuasive than general thoughts and ideas.

Be respectful

Commission members are not politicians, they are concerned citizens who are working hard and doing the best they can.

Get support from others

A key criterion of the Commission is “Communities of Interest”, so you must demonstrate that a real community of interest supports your change.

These maps will change, but you can help drive that change by getting involved now.

Here’s info on how to share your thoughts from the Redistricting Commission website:

To submit a public comment to the commission, call us toll free at 1-866-356-5217 or send us an e-mail directly to votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is eager to accept your supplemental attachments. The following file formats are supported: .pdf and .jpg. Files not submitted in this format will not be posted on the Public Comments page.

Citizens Redistricting Commission
901 P Street, Suite 154-A
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 651-5711

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