On June 23rd the Sacramento Independent Redistricting Commission (SIRC) held a town hall alongside city staff. Before we dive into the material, let’s lay some groundwork. If you need it for reference, here is the link for the SIRC page.
What is meant by redistricting?
Every 10 years the U.S. Census Bureau completes a census of the U.S. population. Based on this data, cities must redraw their council district lines to ensure equal populations in each district.
What is the SIRC?
In 2016 the Sacramento City Council approved a charter amendment that creates the SIRC and gives it the exclusive right to redraw district boundaries. It is composed of 13 community members, 8 of which were randomly selected by the Sacramento Ethics Commission, the remaining 5 (and 2 alternates) were subsequently chosen by the initial 8. Importantly members of the SIRC can have no ties to any government offices or elected officials.
What are the mapping requirements?
Council districts are substantially equal in population
The final map complies with state and federal law
Each district is geographically contiguous
*it’s also important to note that the SIRC cannot consider place of residence of any individual in the process of redrawing district lines - this includes elected officials and political candidates.
What priorities must be considered for mapping?
The following criteria are listed in order of importance in the consideration of redrawing district lines
Existing neighborhood & community boundaries
Communities of interest (those that share common social & economic interests)
Integrity & compactness of territory
Geography & topography
Natural & artificial barriers & boundaries
Preservation of population cores that have consistently been associated w/district lines
Other commission adopted criteria
How can you get involved?
There will be a mapping application, alongside tutorial videos, released on the city’s website within the next few weeks (with practice data) and in September (with full census data) which will allow people/community organizations to submit their own district line proposals and suggestions. You can also attend community meetings! The schedule can be found below:
*note that all meetings are currently online, staff is aiming to have a hybrid model available by July/August
You can also:
Submit eComments on a Commission posted agenda on the City website.
Submit comments anytime on the City’s redistricting website. Comments will be available for the public and the commissioners to review.
So what was this meeting all about?
This meeting began with an informative video about the redistricting process and how it applies to Sacramento council districts. This particular meeting was to be centered around D4 (Katie Valenzuela). After the video, the floor was opened for public comment.
During public comment, members of the public were encouraged to use the mapping application to make their voices heard in the redistricting process, and also assured that their e-comments would be included in the final decision making process for drawing district lines.
Some specific points:
- A meeting attendee brought up the fact that redistricting in Sacramento has a history involving gerrymandering (manipulate the boundaries so as to favor one party or class), to which Commissioner Hussey responded that that is what the SIRC was created to combat. Under the system involving the SIRC, government officials will not have a say in choosing district boundaries.
We want to lift up D4 community member Andre Ramos who called in to emphasize the need to consider the queer and LGBT community, as well as the Latino community, when redrawing district lines.
- There were quite a few questions about about how developments that have emerged since the census in 2020/will emerge in the future will be taken into account. The most important criteria of the redistricting process is to ensure that there are equal populations in every district. Considering that, it seems that projected growth may be incorporated into redistricting, but only in a very restricted way. It cannot be used to drastically alter the population requirements for a district.
- There was a question about adding school districts as communities of interest on the mapping application, to which the response was that it would have to be agreed upon by the commission and direct staff. It was also stated by the commission that adding more overlapping community boundaries could be confusing. It was said toward the end of the meeting that even information that is not officially included in the mapping application will be considered if it is brought up by the community.
- Voting patterns are not considered communities of interest, but demographics that are associated with voting patterns may be.
- Business districts may be considered, but only after all other criteria have been met.
- The unhoused population will be counted based on their presence in the 2020 census (which was a point-in-time count)
Here's a timeline for the redistricting process! Make sure to get involved if you have something to say!