Ask the average person about redistricting and the response, most likely, would be a perplexed stare. Yet, redistricting is one of the fundamental “deciders” of who gets to represent the community (district) in the Congress (House of Representatives only); the state Senate, the state Assembly and the state Board of Equalization. (The county and the city officials draw their own district lines).
It is important to understand the rationale behind the state mandated redistricting commission officially known as the California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC). In the system of democracy, the people (the voters) were supposed to pick those who would represent them through the ballot box (voting). Apparently, many people came to the conclusion that the politicians were choosing the people instead of the people choosing the politicians (the elected officials). In other words, district boundaries were being drawn and districts were being (s)elected by politicians so that they would gain the upper-hand in an election–the process did not seem to be fair; it was not a level playing field and the election outcome was predetermined and/or predicted. It was legal gerrymandering.
(Gerrymandering, simply put, is a plan whereby a political party draws the district boundaries so that the outcome of an election will benefit that party–the drawer of the boundaries. According to some experts, gerrymandering is a fact of representative democracies. Furthermore, studies have shown that in virtually every country that elects representatives by districts, if those districts are drawn by the elected officials, they will inevitably be gerrymandered, and the United States is near the top of the gerrymandering democracies. As a matter of fact, the term “gerrymandering” is an American invention).
Enter the redistricting commission (CCRC): a group of 14 “non-elected” officials/volunteers, who was given the task of traveling up and down the state, gathering information–without interference from and elected official–meeting with voters via forums, town-hall meetings and the like, and seeking their input as to how and where the boundaries ought to be drawn–consistent with the most recent census report. This is the first experiment with citizen redistricting in California’s history. And since California is the most populous state in the union, it is very likely that all eyes are on California’s redistricting experiment.
Recently, the preliminary boundary maps that were decided by the commission were released to the public and as expected, many are not satisfied.
Politicians and potential candidates, ethnic and racial groups, academicians and legal experts have all chimed in, voicing their concerns, staking out their position and gearing up for what some feel may be legal challenges when the final boundaries are submitted come August 15. Meanwhile community forums and town-hall meetings are still being scheduled.
The CCRC will hold its only Los Angeles hearing/meeting on Thursday, June 16. Its purpose is to solicit testimony from local residents and get feedback on the redistricting maps that were released last Friday afternoon.
The African American Redistricting Collaborative (AARC) is an African American organization that was formed in anticipation and in preparation of any fallout from the CCRC’s redistricting maps when they are released. AARC is composed of several organizations dedicated to encouraging participation and informing the African American community, one of the groups that could be mostly impacted negatively by complacency.
In complaining about the boundary maps released thus far, one Black voter complained, “It (the map) has created a district that pits African Americans against Latinos needlessly by re-drawing a district extending from Southgate to Inglewood.”
In a meeting with Andre Parvenu, one of the commissioners, he said, “This is an opportunity not to be silent and to make certain that you’re affiliated with your neighbors so that, when the time comes, you have one representative to voice what your concerns are as opposed to having scattered representatives where you have an assembly person here, a senator there, a congressman there … This is an opportunity to make certain that your community has one unified and solid voice.”
The above-mentioned meeting will be an opportunity to critique the just-released maps that will determined who will represent the African American community in the House of Representatives and the California legislature, and it could eventually ensure that African American communities of interest are not divided or disenfranchised.