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By Tanu Henry | California Black Media
African American leaders in California are keeping a close eye on the commission that drafts the voting cards for Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, and the Equalization Board. They are worried about the outcome of the redistribution process.
On November 10, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission released the first drafts of maps redesigned lines for state electoral districts. According to state law, finalized versions of new political districts must be completed by December 27.
But advocates like James Woodson, the director of policy at the California Black Census and Redistricting Hub (CBCRH), are asking the commission to press pause and re-evaluate the maps they have developed so far.
The CBCRH, also called âthe black center “ is a statewide coalition focused on “racial equity” and “fairness” in the redistribution process.
âThe Black Hub appreciates the hard work of the commission and its prompt publication of maps for public input. At the same time, the Black Hub is deeply concerned that the map development process has been rushed, inconsistent and incomplete, âsaid Woodson. “This resulted in maps that ignored the interests of many black communities and millions of people in the most populous areas of the state.”
For example, the draft maps released by the commission last month grouped together the only two congressional districts in Los Angeles County represented by black members of the US Congress, Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) and Karen Bass (D -CA-37), in a single district. . After advocates and activists complained about the loss of political power by African Americans, the commission again split the single district it proposed into two constituencies.
But because California lost a seat in the U.S. Congress due to an overall decline in the state’s population, according to 2020 U.S. Census figures, supporters fear it may cause a ripple effect, which will change the racial and political makeup of districts across the state.
Leaders of the Black Hub and other advocates of the state are urging black Californians to speak out and do their part to ensure their communities do not lose representation or resources.
âIt’s not just about losing political power. It’s also about losing assets to us, âsaid Kellie Todd Griffin, a resident of Carson, Los Angeles County, where the number of black residents represents more than 25% of the total population of the country. city. Los Angeles County, where California is expected to lose a seat in Congress, is home to about 40% of African Americans in the state.
Griffin, who is an organizer and entrepreneur, is known in California political circles for her outspokenness in favor of black Californians. She says that with the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028, there will be a lot of development and increased revenue for government and business in Carson. Redesigned political districts, she fears, could economically harm her city and others nearby.
âWhen you look at the maps, you see that our congressional district in Carson has been attached more to Redondo Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes instead of being connected to towns like Long Beach and Compton and places like that,â said Griffin. âIt is also assumed that blacks and other minorities in the region vote the same on issues. As we know, this is not always true. We have specific issues that affect us blacks differently. So we vote differently on them – some criminal justice reforms to the Crown Act. “
One of the realities driving the concerns of leaders is the possibility that the black vote in five different parts of California may be diluted.
“Rather than adhere to the priorities of the BIPOC community map, we fear that in an effort to prioritize all voices, some commissioners have wrongly and unknowingly raised the voices of less wealthy and less diverse communities. in the process, and to the detriment of BIPOC communities, “said Woodson.
According to the CBCRH, because the proposed maps carve out and divide the districts where African Americans live, black political power will be diluted in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Central Valley, Bay Area. and the Inland Empire. To solve the problem, they submitted proposed maps to the Redistribution Commission which will protect political power and black representation.
Another major concern is the tight schedule the commission is working on, which limits the time for citizens to influence the line-drawing process. This year, due to federal delays related to the pandemic, the census data the commission relies on to redraw the maps has been delayed. Instead of its usual publication in March, the US Census Bureau did not provide this information until September 21.
âThe Black Hub is deeply concerned that the map development process has been rushed, inconsistent and incomplete. This resulted in maps that ignored the interests of many black communities and millions of people in the most populous areas of the state, âsaid a statement released by the CBCRH last week.
Every 10 years, California appoints a new redistribution commission after the US census. It is responsible for mapping or redrawing state electoral lines based on population changes in the state’s population over the decade between censuses.
According to 2020 census figures, California’s black population has grown from around 2.5 to nearly 2.2 million over the past decade. However, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Californians who identify as more than one race – from 4.9% in 2010 to 14.6% in 2020.
In 2008, Californian voters approved the Citizens Redistricting Commission through a constitutional amendment called The Voters First Act or Proposition 11. It gave citizens the task of drawing electoral maps. The policy was put in place to avoid the political influence of government officials or interest groups on the redistribution process.
Prior to the adoption of Proposition 11, the state legislature was responsible for designing its own constituencies. There are five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members who are not affiliated with any political party on the committee.
When reshuffling the cards, the number of voters in all districts of the state should be equal. This represents approximately 761,000 people in each congressional district. For all State Senate districts, this number is 988,000 and 494,000 people in Assembly districts.
In California, blacks make up just over 5% of the state’s population of about 40 million people. There are 52 congressional districts; 80 Assembly districts; and 40 Senate districts. According to the State Board of Equalization, the body responsible for representing the interests of taxpayers and “equalizing” county-by-county tax assessments across California, there are four districts.
The commission must comply with a number of constitutional mandates, including the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that all minority groups must be able to elect a representative of their choice; a neighborhood must be whole or contiguous (geographically linked); among other rules.
Starting November 17, there will be a series of meetings during which the public can give their opinion to the commissioners. Another round of card drawing sessions will begin on November 30.
âWe have to raise our voices and make sure we’ve said something. That we didn’t just sit back and let these lines redraw themselves without fighting for our best interests. We need to define what the community means to us, âGriffin said. âWe need to make sure we submit written comments and let people know what works for us and what doesn’t. “
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