IMPERIAL COUNTY — The California Citizens Redistricting Commission has been grinding its gears for the last few weeks with community input meetings and other efforts to continue the several-step process of redrawing California’s district lines.
Every 10 years, after the federal government publishes updated census information, California must redraw the boundaries of its Congressional, State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts so that the State’s population is evenly allocated among the new districts.
California voters passed the Voters FIRST Act in 2008, creating the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw new district lines, taking the job out of the hands of the California Legislature. The Voters FIRST Act for Congress added the responsibility of drawing Congressional districts to the Commission’s mandate in 2010.
One of the hurdles the Commission faced was waiting for the US Census data to be release by the US Census Bureau, which occurred on August 12. The data includes race and ethnicity, voting-age population, whether units are vacant or occupied, group quarters information for those living in dormitories, jails, or nursing homes, and more.
Imperial County Deputy CEO Esperanza Colio addressed the County Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting Tuesday, August 24, to share information with the board pertaining to the Census data reported for Imperial County.
In 2010, about 174,528 Imperial County residents were reported in the Census data. In 2020, the number of residents increased to 179,702, which is a three percent increase.
The State divided all California counties into 10 regions for data recording purposes. Imperial County and San Diego County are included in region 10 for the Census data reporting. Region 10 saw the highest difference in reporting between 2010 and 2020.
Colio explained there were difficulties and challenges in getting the community to respond to the Census, but despite those challenges, Imperial County had the highest Census response rates in the State.
“I call it a success because with the pandemic it was almost impossible to reach out to the community,” said Colio.
The Commission is, for the first time in California history, working to reallocate those in state custody to their last known address. The process is currently being undertaken by the Statewide Database along with reformatting of the recently released ‘legacy’ data by the US Census Bureau.
The Commission stated the dataset will need to be reformatted by the California Statewide Database to a usable format so as to reallocate state prisoners locations to their last known addresses.
The Commission voted, 9-4-1, to not count federal prison populations in California for redistricting purposes to discourage unfair or padded representation in communities with a facility located in their jurisdiction, according to a press release from the Commission.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” Commission Chair Linda Akutagawa said. “The Commission was well-intentioned in pursuing the reallocation of those in federal and state custody to their last known address, but time is not on our side. We will continue to pursue this information, so the 2030 Commission has a mechanism to obtain this information for the next redistricting cycle.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported a total of 96,106 people in its care on August 18. Imperial County houses Centinela State Prison and Calipatria State Prison.
Because of the delayed Census Data, the Commission voted to petition to move the deadline to submit final maps to the Secretary of State. In July 2020, California Supreme Court set the deadline for December 15, 2021, due to the delayed Census results. It also ruled that deadline would be adjusted accordingly if Census data was received after July 31, 2021. The Commission received the Census data on August 12, 2021. The Commission requested a deadline extension to January 14, 2022.
“Last night’s vote was the result of countless hours of deliberation and public input on the deadline the Commission would pursue with the California Supreme Court to submit final maps. We listened to community members who expressed concern over lower participation rates during the winter holidays, as well as election officials concerned about the deadline’s impact on the 2022 elections. We are moving forward with a petition to the California Supreme Court to make January 14, 2022, the deadline to certify the final maps,” stated Commission Chair Russell Yee.
Based on guidance from the Voters FIRST Act, the Commission has six strict criteria to follow when redrawing the district lines and must complete several different phases of the redistricting process before proposing a redrawn map.