Updated: Oct 11
Thank you for all the wonderful contributions of the following people for helping to put this piece together:
Andrés Ramos - Community Advocate Cha Vang - Deputy Director at AAPIs (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) For Civic Empowerment - Education Fund
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.
How does redistricting work at the County level?
At the County level, the Board of Supervisors is in charge of redrawing district lines.
What happened at the County?
The Board of Supervisors adopted the Final Map at its Dec. 7 meeting at 2 p.m.
Sacramento County's redistricting process was politics as usual. Unlike the state or city, the county doesn't have an independent commission, so the Board of Supervisors drew their own district boundaries.
As can be expected when politicians get to pick their own voters, the line-drawing came down to horse-trading among the supervisors rather than drawing lines that best reflected the community's expressed priorities.
From the start, the process was not very transparent and there was limited public participation. For example, the county set a deadline for public map submissions that was not even posted on their redistricting website. Information about the deadline was buried in a PowerPoint presentation that required navigating multiple webpages to even find. Unsurprisingly, when the deadline came only 9 maps were initially submitted by the public--a few of which were multiple submissions from individual submitters. Even more concerning, when the public submitted written comment or called in during the hearings, the supervisors basically ignored public input.
For example, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community provided extensive input, including a joint letter, asking that their communities in Elk Grove, Florin, and Vineyard be kept together in District 5 (Don Nottoli's district). Various community members from throughout the county called in during the board's redistricting hearing in support of the AAPI community's request. However, the supervisors did not incorporate their request or even give it any serious discussion. Only Supervisor Patrick Kennedy spoke up for the AAPI community and asked that their input be considered.
Instead, the supervisors spent most of their time advocating for what they wanted in their own districts and very little discussion about what the community wanted or the public comment that was given. The final map was approved by a vote of 4 to 1, and is substantially the same as it was before.
The biggest change is that the City of Rancho Cordova, which was previously entirely in District 5 (Don Nottoli), is now split between Districts 3 (Rich Desmond) and 5 (Don Nottoli). Smaller changes were also made, such as moving most of North Highlands from District 3 (Rich Desmond) to District 4 (Sue Frost) and moving Sac State from District 3 (Rich Desmond) to District 1 (Phil Serna).
Supervisor Kennedy voted against the final map, arguing that it did not adequately address the AAPI community's concerns and that his request to move his boundary northward to unify all of Land Park within his district was not incorporated into the final map. Lastly, he suggested that the county consider creating an independent redistricting commission going forward for the 2031 redistricting.
In summary, the county's redistricting continues to be a flawed political process that prioritizes what the Board of Supervisors wants over the community's needs. The map itself is not too different from the current map and will likely not result in a significant difference in the supervisorial races on the ballot in 2022. But it does provide a good opportunity for the community to recognize that this process needs a serious upgrade. As Supervisor Kennedy suggested, the county should consider adopting an independent redistricting commission process for subsequent redistricting starting in 2031 to ensure that community voices are heard and prioritized in the drawing of supervisorial district boundaries.
What’s next for the County?
It's important that we continue to track County BOS agendas for items regarding the creation of an independent redistricting committee. It is also crucial that we communicate our desire for that outcome with our Supervisors as frequently as possible.
Find your supervisor here:
District 1: Phil Serna
District 2: Patrick Kennedy
District 3: Rich Desmond
District 4: Sue Frost
District 5: Don Nottoli
How does redistricting work at the City level?
In 2016 the Sacramento City Council approved a charter amendment that creates the Sacramento Independent Redistricting Commission (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 members (and 2 alternates) were subsequently chosen by the initial 8 members. Importantly, members of the SIRC can have no ties to any government offices or elected officials.
What happened at the City?
The SIRC adopted the Final Sacramento City Council District Map on Dec 16, 2021. The map is effective immediately.
In contrast to the County, the City of Sacramento's redistricting process was a far more transparent and community-driven process. This was the first time that the SIRC decided district lines. The City Council had no role and could not influence the commission's decision-making. In addition, the commission itself couldn't consider any incumbent, political candidate, or other individual in the drawing of boundaries, and the public could not lobby individual commissioners.
The process was very transparent. The commission held virtual hearings in each council district to solicit public input on communities of interest. Two mapping tools were made available to the public--one for submitting community of interest maps and another to submit proposed council district maps.
There was a huge amount of public participation--the public submitted 83 community of interest maps and 35 proposed council district maps. Additionally, extensive written and oral public comment was received during the course of the hearings from individual residents, organizations, and several coalitions of residents specifically organized to advocate in the redistricting process. Over a series of multiple hearings, the commission narrowed down the public's proposed council district maps after receiving community input; the SIRC ultimately merged several maps together.
It was clear from the commissioners' comments that they gave strong weight to the public's comments and actively tried to incorporate public input.
The final map incorporated a lot of community input, but not everyone's requests could be accommodated. There were many common themes that emerged from public comment that were incorporated into the final map. Many community members asked to keep the Central City together, particularly Queer residents and renters. The South Sacramento community weighed in very strongly in favor of keeping Meadowview together and with neighboring communities in Valley Hi/North Laguna. Residents of East Sacramento and River Park called in asking to be kept together. Residents of South Natomas asked to be unified and given their own district. The commission was able to accommodate those major themes from public comment.
In a refreshing change from the County redistricting results, the demands from AAPI community advocates were largely met at the City level. They were successful at keeping communities of interest together in D2 (Del Paso) and D8 (Meadowview).
The final map is significantly different from the previous map.
Notably, the final map creates a new open seat above the American River by shifting the current District 3 (Jeff Harris's district) away from East Sacramento and River Park and puts it instead in South Natomas, Gardenland, and Northgate.
This will make District 3 a more diverse and working class district.
Councilman Jeff Harris won't be able to run for reelection next year unless he moves to the South Natomas area, which seems unlikely. So 2022 will likely be his last year on the City Council.
Additionally, more affluent and white neighborhoods in the south--Curtis Park, Land Park, Pocket/Greenhaven--were all put into District 7 (Rick Jennings). Those neighborhoods were previously split among three districts, which meant that they could have influenced election outcome in multiple districts. Instead, they will now only control one district. As a result, District 5 (Jay Schenirer) is now overwhelmingly made up of people of color and lower-income people. Some community members from those more affluent neighborhoods were unhappy about that, but ultimately this means that lower-income people of color will get to elect their own councilmember without the election being dominated by more affluent white communities.
In summary, the city's process shows why having an independent commission is preferable to politicians drawing their own lines.
The commission created a transparent process and actively worked to incorporate as much public input as it could. The people who always have power didn't get to draw the lines to keep themselves in power (as they would have been able to do in prior years). Residents from wealthier neighborhoods with more access or connections no longer had a leg-up in the process--they had to submit public comment on equal footing with everyone else.
The process produced a good map that will shift the power dynamics at Sacramento City Hall over the next decade. Instead of continuing the current practice of splitting up lower-income people of color and putting them in districts with wealthier whiter neighborhoods who can dominate those districts, the commission drew maps that limit the power of Sacramento's affluent neighborhoods and that give less powerful neighborhoods a chance to elect their own councilmembers. These maps are good for lower-income people of color.
District 3 (currently Jeff Harris) and District 5 (currently Jay Schenirer) are now far more diverse and less affluent, and will elect a new councilmembers next year. Hopefully, these new districts will elect representatives who reflect these diverse communities.