Every 10 years, the census rolls around.
It’s used as a tool when determining boundaries for congressional districts. However, it also plays a role in the shape of school and county supervisor districts.
A redistricting meeting held last week in Nevada County was one of the first steps toward possibly redrawing district lines.
Douglas Yoakam, consultant from the National Demographics Corporation, and Steve Monaghan, county chief information officer, led the meeting.
“Every Nevada County resident should be a part of the redistricting process,” Monaghan said.
Census data will become available Aug. 16, a late date because of the pandemic and a debate in Congress over what should be included in the census, Yoakam said.
According to Yoakam, every 10 years supervisor districts could be redrawn, to make them work more efficiently and equitably. That requires resident feedback. However, the process is driven by the population count certified by the Census Bureau.
Supervisors in February opted to have a County Staff Advisory Committee recommend district boundaries. Supervisors will have the final say on those boundaries.
Additional data will be included at the first official public hearing, set for Aug. 24 in Truckee, which will encompass input from residents comprising Communities of Interest. COIs are geographical areas that have a shared social or economic interest that can be affected by county policy such as transportation, housing or public safety emergencies, like fire protection.
At subsequent public hearings residents will be able to contribute their ideas on maps and access mapping tools.
Under state law counties are required to follow numerous redistricting guidelines. A district must be approximately equal in population. And elections must follow the Federal Voting Rights Act.
“We cannot deliberately discriminate against a protected class of voters, either by splitting them up or combining them in a way that takes away their right to elect a supervisor of their choice — no racial gerrymandering,” said Yoakam.
The state’s Fair Maps Act requires a district to be geographically contiguous. If possible, it cannot divide geographical areas kept together through unity of interest (COIs), ethnic enclaves or Census Designated Places. In addition, a district must use easily identifiable boundaries, such as rivers or a major highway, rather than a meandering boundary used to break up neighborhoods.
“Also, make districts compact to the extent possible, by not bypassing one group of people to get to another group, which could favor one political party over another,” Yoakam said.
It is vital county residents consider participating in redistricting, said Taylor Wolfe, administrative analyst with the county.
“This process happens every 10 years following the census to ensure each board member represents the same amount of constituents,” she said. “Redistricting determines which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into a district for purposes of electing a board member.”
Oct. 22 is the deadline for the initial draft maps from public input, Yoakam said. Nov. 9 will be the second official hearing. The final adoption of the redistricting ordinance is set for Dec. 14.
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org