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Independent Commission to Choose from Four County District Maps
By Jorge Casuso
November 4, 2021 -- In a little over a month, Santa Monica will end up in a new County Supervisorial District, possibly grouped with cities in the San Fernando Valley or in the South Bay.
An independent Citizens Redistricting Commission comprised of 14-members, including one from Santa Monica, has been busy sorting through proposed districting maps.
Last Saturday Commissioners chose four maps from among more than two dozen submitted by the public and by four of the Commission members and will begin the process of picking the final map on December 15.
"Each of the maps makes some moderate changes," said Commissioner Brian Stecher, an adjunct social scientist at the RAND Corporation who lives in Santa Monica.
One of the maps has stirred concern by placing the area north of Montana Avenue and west of 14th Street in a different district than the rest of the city.
The map, which was posted on the Commission website, has been circulating in local political circles and prompted the North of Montana Association (NOMA) to send the Commission a letter Monday.
If the map were chosen, said NOMA president Nancy Coleman, "it would mean you have to appeal to two supervisors to do anything with the County."
Stecher, who submitted the map, said he inadvertently drew the line that divided the city into two districts.
"That's a mistake," he said. "The software used (to draw the lines) is very complex. My intention is to keep the City together."
Tasking an independent commission with carving five districts of some 2 million residents each is a radical departure from the past, when the County Supervisors themselves drew the lines.
That resulted in individual supervisors protecting their turf and crafting maps that favored their prospects for re-election.
By contrast, members of the Citizens Redistricting Commission have been chosen by a combination of luck and choice in an effort to keep politics out of the process.
A total of 741 County residents filed applications to serve on the 4-member Commission. In September 2020, the county registrar chose the 60 most qualified and sent their applications to the controller.
The controller then randomly selected one commissioner for each of the five districts and chose another three. The eight commissioners then chose the final six.
The Commission has been charged with listening to the public and creating a final map based on the 2020 Census.
In order to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act, the districts must be geographically connected and "drawn so as to minimize dividing cities, neighborhoods, or communities of interest."
The districts cannot be “gerrymandered” to favor any political faction, party or officeholder, according to the guidelines.
The public will continue weighing in this month on the four final options before the commission and its staff refines them for further comment.
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