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Guest Opinion: Communities can now provide input for CA redistricting process

by Isra Ahmad

Isra Ahmad. Photo: Courtesy CRC
Isra Ahmad. Photo: Courtesy CRC  

Because "We the People" should select our representatives and not the other way around, the independent California Citizens Redistricting Commission, or CRC, was established in 2008 by citizen initiative.

For the CRC to draft fair and representative congressional, state Senate, state Assembly, and Board of Equalization district maps, we need communities to tell us about themselves. We also need census 2020 data, including the number of congressional districts allocated to California ("reapportionment data").

Due to delays in receiving data from the United States Census Bureau, communities of interest will have more time to identify where they are located, how they are connected, and why it is crucial to be represented in the same district.

Traditionally, states receive redistricting data by March 31. This year, because of delays in collecting the data due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the census bureau has announced that it released the reapportionment data by April 30 and will release the redistricting data by September 30.

Under the California Constitution, the CRC is mandated to submit its final maps to the secretary of state by August 15 in each year ending with one. The six-month delay in receiving the census data would make it impossible for the CRC to meet this mandate. On July 17, 2020, in Legislature of CA v. Alex Padilla, the California Supreme Court ruled that the CRC should have until December 15, 2021 to submit its final maps due to the delay in the release of the census results. The court further ruled that if census results are received after July 31, 2021, the CRC's December 15 deadline is to be extended on a day-for-day basis.

The CRC is working to develop a timeline that ensures it has adequate time for significant public input in the process and the review of draft maps while enabling the state to implement the 2022 elections effectively.

While the commission waits for census data to begin drawing district maps, we are taking the time to educate communities about the redistricting process and are taking communities of interest input online, which will help us identify community boundaries. This new tool is meant to increase participation in the redistricting process and is available for all Californians to use.

The CRC is committed to creating an open, accessible, and transparent process for ALL Californians. To achieve this, we need to hear from your community through our community input process. Communities are groups of people with strong connections. Those connections can be cultural, economic, geographic, or social. Given the various types of community, individuals can belong to more than one community. For instance, a group of people who fish in Lake B and who are concerned with keeping their lake free of pollution could identify themselves as a community of interest. So can the LGBTQ community.

We invite you to talk with your neighbors and others in your communities to identify what makes your community special. What is your community's identity? And what issues bind you together? The CRC will use community input along with the census data to draw the lines for up to 176 districts — approximately 52 congressional districts, 40 state Senate districts, 80 state Assembly districts, and four state Board of Equalization districts.

We invite you to share your communities' stories and locations through our Community of Interest Tool (https://drawmycacommunity.org/), where you can electronically submit a map and tell us about your community. If you prefer paper and pen, we will be distributing a paper community of interest tool to complete and return to the commission. We are currently collecting Communities of Interest information from Californians directly. Please visit our website to submit your community of interest and find other ways to give your input at https://drawmycacommunity.org/

Isra Ahmad is a member of the California Citizens Redistricting Commission from Santa Clara County. She is registered to vote as no party preference and is currently a senior research and evaluation specialist with Santa Clara County's Division of Equity and Social Justice, which works with seven different offices, including the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. She lives in San Jose.


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