Voting districts at stake
By Isabell Rivera
Redistricting, also known as “gerrymandering” was first introduced in 1812 by Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who decided to redraw voting district lines for his political benefit. This method is still being used in current times, however, marginalized people are the ones who are receiving the short end of the stick. Redistricting is the second-largest shift of power in the United States next to the Presidential election.
The redrawing of voting district maps is currently underway in California, and its residents have the opportunity to shape California and California’s communities in a way that protects their neighborhoods from being broken apart and protects their voting power from being diluted. How district boundaries are configured can make the difference between empowering and maximizing the voters’ voices or minimizing and muting those voices.
The South Los Angeles non-profit organization Community Coalition (CoCo) believes that in order to maximize the community’s electoral power, it is essential to build out a multiracial, intersectional, and regional approach to the redistricting process using a racial equity lens.
CoCo has assembled 34 organizations known as the People’s Bloc, to conduct grassroots community engagement in this redistricting cycle. Through storytelling, education, and targeted messaging that centers community voices in the redistricting process, CoCo has created “Solidarity Maps” which elevate racial solidarity as new lines of representation are being drawn.
This effort lies in the interest of ensuring the maps created – by the state of California, LA County, the City of LA, and Los Angeles Unified School District Redistricting Commissions – provide protection and political power to underrepresented communities and do not result in minimizing their representation, political voice, and access to resources for years to come.
However, the 2021 City of Los Angeles Redistricting effort may be inherently flawed due to the 2020 Census undercount. The U.S. Census Bureau provides the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with population counts to use in the redrawing of legislative district boundaries. Based on comparisons between the 2020 Census data and the most recent American Community Survey estimates, a The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study found that in Los Angeles County:
• Census tracts where more U.S.-born residents live are more likely to be accurately counted than immigrant neighborhoods.
• Predominantly Latinx neighborhoods are most likely to have the largest undercounts in the Census.
• Communities of residents who are mainly renters, rather than homeowners, were more likely to have undercounts.
• Neighborhoods with the most significant percentage of people living below the poverty line were most likely to have undercounts.
CoCo contends LA residents are the experts on their neighborhoods and what makes them special, distinct, and unique. They are the best suited to define their own “communities of interest” with common priorities and concerns. LA’s communities also know what makes them most like other communities and why they should not be broken up. Lincoln Heights should be kept in the same district as Boyle Heights and El Sereno, to which they are most similar.
Koreatown residents have had to figure out for decades which one of the four council districts—District 1, 4, 10, or 13—they should turn to when trying to solve their community’s problems. This is an issue, as the residents there deserve to be unified so their collective power can be enhanced.
As mentioned before, redistricting is about voting, economic, and political power. However, it is clear that our strength has been undermined by a historic undercount. CoCo asks that LA residents call on the City of Los Angeles Redistricting Commission to stay steadfast in its commitment to transparency, community involvement, and equity.
They must follow through on placing power in the hands of the LA people so these communities can move in a direction to make LA whole. Returning assets lost by communities – such as South LA – 10 years ago, and drawing lines that honor the political, cultural, and the future of key neighborhoods, is the first step.
Other CoCo demands involve economic engines and cultural assets—such as USC, Exposition Park, and the Coliseum – to be returned to Council District 8. In addition, Destination Crenshaw – the 1.3-mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard being transformed into a thriving commercial corridor due to long-deserved economic investment – should also be kept in Council District 8. CD8 is going to be a solidly Black district for the foreseeable future, and its residents need and deserve improved opportunity and access.
Last but not least, CoCo asks return the assets and economic drivers stripped from this predominantly African-American district during the 2011-12 redistricting process.
For more information visit redistricting2021.lacity.org.