Community Members Will Help Map District Lines
By Barbara Zaragoza
Phase One of Chula Vista’s districting process began on Monday, March 16th at the Chula Vista Public Library-South Branch when representatives from the Coalitionfor Inclusive & Fair Districting (CIFD) provided a mapping and speaker training to residents.
Jess Jollet from the San Diego ACLU and member of the coalition summarized districting, saying that until now councilmembers have been elected “at large,” meaning candidates who have received the highest number of votes from all of Chula Vista have won a council seat.
In 2012, however, 62.7% of voters (44,906 residents) passed Proposition B, which mandated that Chula Vista be divided into four voting districts. Now residents will only be able to vote for a candidate within their own district. The mayor will still be elected “at large.”
Jollet said, “The ACLU believes districting creates an opportunity for one vote to really count for one vote. So often times you’ll see “at large” elections, minority votes will get drowned out by overwhelming majorities and you’ll have a make-up of a city council or a county board of supervisors that isn’t truly representative of the population and the challenges that are faced.”
About thirty-five residents were in attendance. They broke into groups where coalition members demonstrated how to use Google maps to create your own district boundary lines. Trinh Le from the Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI) next gave a talk about how residents could effectively present their districting recommendations to commissioners. She encouraged residents to describe the characteristics of their communities, their needs and their concerns.
Five public input hearings will begin in April when a hired demographer and seven appointed districting commissioners will hear Chula Vista residents testify about where they would like district lines drawn. At the end of April, the demographer will then draw two maps in public.
Phase two begins in May when another five hearings will take place. At that time, the community will provide critiques of the draft maps.
Districting Commissioner Bill Richter, who was present at the workshop, explained that the commission will then approve the demographer’s map and send it to City Council. The Mayor and councilmembers will have one chance to potentially reject the map and send it back to the commission. Once the commission delivers a second district map, by law city council will have to accept it.
The Chula Vista Charter and the federal Voting Rights Act mandates that each district have an equal population and that the boundaries be geographically contiguous. District lines must also disregard incumbents, candidates and political parties.
Richter said, “I hope to see a lot of public input because that’s the key to this process. Lines will be drawn one way or another, but the more public input there is, the better the process will be.”
This past January, the City Council approved $130,500 for implementation of districting. The new district-style elections will be phased in for council seats 3 and 4 in 2016 and for Council seats 1 and 2 in 2018.