According to a new visualization pre-map published last weekend by the California Redistricting Commission, (CRC), South Los Angeles and Malibu have enough in common that they should be lumped together into one voting district.
That bombshell was released last weekend on the web site www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov, and has the African American community reeling and fuming.
According to Marqueece Harris-Dawson, CEO of the Community Coalition which is one of the driving forces behind the African American Redistricting Collaborative, there was absolutely no inkling that such a proposal would be forthcoming. “None, zero, and I’ve been living and breathing this.”
Harris-Dawson said visualization is a process that gives the commission an idea about how they might draw a district which theym then put up and then listen to the comments.
This version of the visualization would impact two assembly seats currently held by African Americans–the 48th and 51st–as well as the 33rd Congressional slot now held by Karen Bass. It would also reduce the Black populations within the districts so much it would be extremely difficult for African Americans to get elected.
“I’m still trying to get to the bottom of the change,” said Harris-Dawson, who said the commission has said that the new visualization is a result of listening to testimony during the last few months.
The visualization that has caused the flap is a mistake, said CRC Commissioner M. Andre Parvenu.
“We gave directions to the drawer and researcher to change that, and it will change with the next reiteration.”
Parvenu said the change is a temporary fix that will remove areas such as Crenshaw, Ladera Heights, View Park, Baldwin Hills, and Leimert Park out of the predominantly White Northwest District and combine it with a district that includes Inglewood.
While the visualizations may come out more frequently on the commission’s web site, the next set of officials maps will be released to the public on July 14. But this time instead of holding a series of meetings around the state soliciting comments, Parvenu said the commission is encouraging people to review the map and submit comments via the web site.
People have 14 days to comment before final maps are released on July 28. A public notice period then follows this release date.
Parvenu notes that the proposed visualizations and maps reflect current and future conditions as well as demographic shifts, changes and constraints.
There are a set of considerations the commission must follow as they draw the new boundary lines. These are in order of importance: Population equity, for example, each congressional district must have exactly 702,905 people; the federal Voting Rights Act must be complied with; district lines must be contiguous and the district should connected at all points and respect (as much as possible) communities, cities and neighborhoods; districts must be geographically compact; ideally, districts should nest within each other meaning there should be two assembly districts within each senatorial district etc.; candidates currently in office can not be considered at all.
Parvenu also pointed out that a number of other complex constraints are impacting the process.
“The advantage that African Americans had in the past, was that although numerically they were not as great in numbers at Latinos, more of us were citizens and could vote. That situation is going to change drastically over the next decade. We will find ourselves possibly in districts where there are 20 percent African American compared to 50-60 percent Latino and 30 percent others,” explained the commissioner, who is also African American.
That future numerical imbalance has prompted the commission’s legal counsel to push for establishment of Voting Rights districts in the Los Angeles area that are comprised of 50 percent plus one African Americans.
However, Parvenu acknowledges the potential downside of this thrust–two assembly districts instead of the current four; one senatorial district instead the two now in place; and two congressional seats instead of three.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that for a variety of reasons, the African American population in Los Angeles county in the recent census, unlike all the other major ethnic groups, dropped by about 1.1 percent. That is directly attributed to the outmigration of Blacks to areas like the Inland Empire and Antelope Valley and to other states. It’s also because incarcerated African Americans are counted where their lock-up facility is located rather than in the communities they came from or to which they will most likely return.
And finally, Parvenu said there was a high undercount of Blacks during the 2010 census.
Another factor that may complicate the already complex process even further is a racial polarization study that was requested by the commission.
“Realizing that races matters, we hired a racial polarization expert to conduct an analysis on certain areas that we expect may have had a history of racially polarized voting,” Parvenu explained.
In the traditional sense, racial polarization meant that Southern Whites would vote in a block to defeat a Black candidate. But with the different racial dynamics in Los Angeles, Parvenu said the study, which will placed on the commission’s web site, will look at the voting patterns of Blacks vs. Latinos, Latinos vs. Asians, and Blacks vs. Asians.
Harris-Dawson is wary of this study “. . . the study around racial polarization may be used as a ruse to reduce Black voting percentages.”