Every ten years in the United States, new political lines are drawn to create “more equitable districts” at every level of government. In 2020 – 2021, for the first time a Citizens Redistricting Commission is drawing lines for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. This process called redistricting is important to ensure that each Board of Supervisors member represents about the same number of constituents (residents). For decades, elected officials have directed the line drawing, however, trending in California is a new strategy, to engage the public via a citizens redistricting commission selected randomly from residents deemed ideal to represent the diversity in a jurisdiction.
The “We” includes the public who is being invited to make public comments, to submit written public comments, to draw and submit draft maps, and to outreach to every resident of L.A. County telling the story – it is your time and responsibility to get involved. Yes, with every level of government drawing lines at the same time, tracking and being involved can become a full-time commitment.
Let me not forget to mention that the people who are currently serving as elected officials cannot engage directly, or as some who say, “interfere in the outcome. “In fact, the rules indicate their home addresses cannot be a consideration in the process of ensuring equitable distribution of residents into districts – in short, the lines should not be drawn to protect them in a certain district.
Urgent, from now until December 15th, is the efforts of the L.A. County Citizens Redistricting Commission and its 14 commissioners. For the Black community, it is important to take notice of Carol Williams and Jean Franklin, two African Americans serving as co-chairs. At a recent meeting, it was Jean Franklin who cried out, “Time is of the essence!” That is a message not only to the Commission, but to us.
Among the maps that are being considered, there is a threat to Supervisorial District 2, now led by Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Go to www.redistricting.lacounty.gov for more details and to track the work of this commission over the past months. More importantly, submit written comments and attend the upcoming meetings, where public comment is welcomed.
Supervisorial District 2 has historically provided an opportunity for African American representation, and the only district to do so. Map B, both original and revised, puts the Latinx and Black communities in competition, while severing ties with cities and unincorporated communities from neighboring areas that have longstanding common interests. Alan Clayton, a redistricting expert, calls our attention to citizens voting age population (CVAP). He says, “B-1 has 54.6% Latinx CVAP, while reducing Black CVAP to 26.6%, and B-1 revised is very similar. By putting the SE cities (Downey, South Gate, and Huntington Park) in District 2, the county loses a third district with opportunity to elect a minority. It creates one Latinx district and one seat where African American and Latinx will be in competition.” If the goal is “equal numbers” and “preserving communities of interest,” what is the rationale for this swap?
Map 66 (a modified F map) comes closest to the draft map submitted by the Black HUB. “It provides a district where African Americans have a more likely opportunity to elect a candidate of their own choice.” concludes Clayton, who has monitored the redistricting process for over 25 years and submitted a map labeled the Clayton map – Map #4. Look at it as a guide to protecting minority representation.
To the L.A. County Redistricting Commission members, please listen to the people. Approximately 70% of callers at the meeting on November 29th, residents of South Central L.A. & East LA, pleaded to maintain the potential for minority districts by not placing SE cities in District 2. So, we hope the commission will have the courage and remember the spirit of the Voting Rights Act by eliminating maps B and B-1 revised.
What can and should we do?
Attend the Redistricting Commission meetings (only held virtually). They are scheduled for December 1 and Dec. 7, at 6:30 p.m. PST and Dec. 5th and Dec. 12, at 3:00 p.m.
Spread the word by encouraging all stakeholders in South Los Angeles County to speak during the public comment period. Encourage the PROTECTION OF HISTORIC AFRICAN-AMERICAN DISTRICT 2, so that African Americans can be represented “at the table” by electing a candidate of their own choice.
Go the website to learn more. www.redistricting.lacounty.gov.
Remember, it is our time and it is our watch!
Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, former L.A City Redistricting Commission (2000, 2010) and President – Ward EDC, a community faith-based development organization in South L.A.