LA County Redistricting to be handled by independent commission
By Dolores Quintana
The City of Santa Monica will become part of a new LA County supervisorial district as chosen by the newly created and independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. It is possible that Santa Monica might be placed in a district that is composed of cities from the South Bay or the San Fernando Valley. This Commission has 14 members, one of which is from Santa Monica. The Commission has already been at work going through proposed maps with freshly drawn district lines.
On October 30, 2021, the Commission members selected four maps out of the dozens that were submitted to the Commission by members of the public as well as four that were submitted by other Commissioners. After the choices are narrowed down, the Commission will continue the process until December 15 when the final redistricting map will be chosen.
“Each of the maps makes some moderate changes” said Commissioner Brian Stecher as quoted by the Santa Monica Lookout. Stecher is the one member of the Commission that lives in Santa Monica itself and he works at the RAND corporation as an adjunct social scientist.
One particular map of Santa Monica caused some concern and confusion among residents of the city. In it, the area of Montana Avenue was placed in a different district and was submitted by Stecher. This map moved the North Of Montana Association or NOMA to send a letter to the Commission calling the map’s district lines into question after it was placed on the Commission’s website. In the letter NOMA president Nancy Coleman, “it would mean you have to appeal to two supervisors to do anything with the County.” as quoted by the Santa Monica Lookout.
Stecher admitted that the severing of the area north of Montana Avenue was a mistake while using the district line drawing software on his part. As quoted by the Santa Monica Lookout he said, “That’s a mistake. The software used is very complex. My intention is to keep the City together.”
The new commission is a big change from the traditional methods of redistricting the City. Formerly, the LA County Supervisors would handle the task which would lead to individuals attempting to draw the district maps in ways that would benefit them and their chances for reelection to their posts. The Citizens Redistricting Commission has put the choice in the hands of ordinary citizens who obtained their positions through the luck of the draw and through their individual qualifications. As reported by the Santa Monica Outlook, 741 people applied for four spots on the Commission. The county registrar picked 60 of the applications with the best qualifications for the job and passed these applications on to the City Controller. From there, the Controller randomly selected five applicants for each of the five districts and then picked another three applicants. Those eight commissioners were the ones who made the choice about the final six commissioners.
Commissioners are required to listen to public comment and issues before making a decision that must be based on the 2020 Census. The redistricting must also follow the law as defined by the Federal Voting Act and the districts cannot be gerrymandered to favor any political party or candidate. The districts must connect cities geographically and must be “drawn so as to minimize dividing cities, neighborhoods, or communities of interest.”
The Commission will continue taking public comment about the final four maps so that they may continue to revise the maps to the public’s satisfaction and then the public will be able to comment on the revisions with the final vote taking place on December 15.