Redistricting Changes: Locals Ready for Elections
By Dianne Anderson
What started as a call to action for an accurate Census count is now winding down through the final stage to close out the redistricting process that determines who gets elected and where the money goes.
For the Black community, battered by the pandemic economy, the redistricting maps have been about getting more voices at the table, and a fair chance to represent at the state, and local levels.
Redrawn maps by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission have candidates gearing up for the June 2022 primary.
As a result of new boundaries, along with Democrat Alan Lowenthal’s recent retirement announcement, the door opens for other leaders to shift into place. Mayor Robert Garcia will now compete for Lowenthal’s seat in the newly redrawn district. In turn, that opens up the Mayor’s seat for Rex Richardson’s campaign. District 8 Councilman Al Austin is going after the recently drawn 69th Assembly, which opens the door for his old council seat.
Zhe Scott said she was proud to be part of the first-ever Independent Long Beach Redistricting Commission. She said they worked hard as a whole to avoid alienating any segment of their population.
“I was very pleased that the diverse city that I grew up in was very active in expressing their thoughts about the lines that the commission as a whole have approved,” said Scott, a native Long Beach resident and Long Beach Polytechnic High School alumnus.
The city’s Redistricting Commission received over 16 hours of public comment and over 1,000 pages of written correspondence regarding the draft maps.
Scott said the face of Long Beach is not changing too much, but she has seen a more actively involved community in the process. Communities of interest are stepping up to be heard in the political process.
“I think the past years of this pandemic have made all of Long Beach stand back and reflect on what we want to see moving forward,” she said. “As a Redistricting Commissioner, it was my duty and honor to listen to the community and do my best to support the engagement of all communities of interest.”
Jerlene Tatum considers her redistricting input comparatively small within her own residential neighborhood, which she said was oddly positioned. If the maps hadn’t changed, she would have run for City Council.
“I was upset about what they were trying to do in my neighborhood. They’ve done nothing. That’s the problem, but now I have a council member that will do something,” she said.
In her public comment, she addressed how so few residences could be carved into an industrial community of District 1. She wanted three residential blocks removed from District 1 and placed into whatever district the commission determined. Her complaint got traction.
Tatum went back and reviewed old city maps. Historically, she said it looked like the carve-out was more to gain a foothold on the voting numbers.
“The only thing I could say is it was their way of ensuring they had votership on this side of town. I live on the West side of the freeway. It’s like their forgotten land. Nobody remembers that we’re here until there is an issue,” she said.
Last week, Public Policy Institute of California released its findings on the final maps for the state, and report that the majority Latino districts added six districts for US Congress, three for state senate and five for state assembly.
“By contrast, “influence” districts—where Latinos are a significant minority, which we define as 30% or more—decreased by eight for US Congress, seven for state senate, and five for state assembly,” PPIC reports.
The group found that for Asian Americans and African Americans, the final maps show less change with the state reflecting two Asian majority districts, up just one seat over the current Assembly map.
“There are no majority Black districts in any map nor additional assembly or senate influence districts, but the congressional plan now has two new Black influence districts,” the report said, referring to congressional districts 37 and 43 in the heart of Los Angeles.
The data gathering that makes up the current maps also reflects a busy three-year effort for the California Black Hub, which submitted many of the maps formed from public input to reflect the community, and was accepted by the state redistricting commission.
LaNae Norwood said they worked with USC Equity and Race Department and UC Berkeley to develop a powerful demography team. Before the redistricting process, the Hub hosted over 400 communities of interest sessions in Black communities to capture accurate representation.
“Where are the opportunities for us to really draw districts that are going to give us the most political voice and opportunities to elect our own leaders?” said Norwood, strategic communications director for the nonprofit.
She said the big question was identifying migration and areas where Blacks reside in the state.
“Traditional hubs like South L.A. and Oakland have a large Black population, but even those areas have people moving out to more suburban and rural communities to chase a higher quality of life,” she said.
The hub submitted maps statewide, but she said that one sticking point in Long Beach was in the LGBTQ+ community, and a push to try to pull in South Bay areas with Long Beach for congressional, state and assembly seats.
“They were advocating for conflicting boundaries that would, ultimately, in our opinion dilute the opportunity of Black voice in Long Beach. There were some compromises made,” she said.
Overall, she feels the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is a model for local and state redistricting. While getting demography right takes longer and can be expensive, she said it was important that the public had an opportunity to provide input and oversee in a nonpartisan way the interests of the Black community.
“Independent redistricting commissions should be the standard across the board, and district maps should not be drafted by political insiders or elected leaders. The people who should pick who they want to represent them and not the other way around. That’s the takeaway.”
To learn more about The California Black Census and Redistricting Hub, see https://cablackhub.org/