A Proposal to Redistrict California: Northern California and Sacramento

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Right now states across the nation are engaging in congressional redistricting, as mandated by law after the 2010 Census. Most redistricting is in the hands of politicians and thus heavily corrupted; the political party in control of the process is now busily gerrymandering districts to ensure it stays in power.

California is an exception to this rule; it is undergoing a unique experiment with a citizen’s redistricting committee. This committee will draw districts according to communities of interest rather than political expediency.

This post, and the ones following it, will outline one possible way to redistrict California. It uses the program Dave’s Redistricting Application, which allows anybody to draw congressional districts. Credit should be given to the many users on swingstateproject.com, whose maps of California provided much of the basis for this drawing. Particular inspiration was taken from the maps of users DrPhillips and roguemapper (whose maps everybody should look at too).

Because California is such a big and complex state, the proposal will be divided into eight regions:

1. Northern California and Sacramento

2. the Bay Area

3. Central Valley

4. Central Coast

5. Los Angeles County

6. Orange County

7. the Inland Empire

8. San Diego

Each region will be the subject of one post. I have also sent this proposal to the California Redistricting Committee.

In drawing these districts, several factors have been considered. These are outlined below, in order of importance:

Equal Population – Congressional districts must have equal population, to the exact person. This proposal puts each congressional district to below 1,000 people of the target. This is actually a hard barrier to meet, since the voting districts of California are incredibly large (some have over 100,00 people) and difficult to deal with.

The Voting Rights Act – The Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) mandates the creation of majority-minority districts under certain circumstances and regulates the use of race in drawing congressional districts. It is an incredibly complex piece of legislation, with numerous court cases, and something I admittedly don’t fully understand. This proposal attempts to follow the VRA as best as possible, by not regressing current majority-minority districts (easy to do, given the growth of California’s minority population). It also draws new majority-minority districts where reasonably possible – a very subjective thing, true, but so is the VRA.

Communities of Interest – Drawing congressional districts that put together like communities is an extremely important part of this proposal. Too often California’s politicians have gerrymandered together unlike communities for their own political ends (which is the reason California now has an independent redistricting commission). This proposal attempts to stop that.

Compactness – No more weirdly shaped, spaghetti-style congressional districts. Unfortunately, compactness and the VRA do not go together – drawing majority-minority districts often leads to less compact districts. Since the VRA is supreme by federal law, it takes precedence; here compactness is sacrificed several times to the VRA’s mandate. Nevertheless, compactness is still a priority.

County and Town Lines – Town lines are useful indicators of communities of interest, while county lines aid compactness. This proposal attempts its best to respect both.

Partisanship – Actually, this proposal does not consider the political leanings of a community; it was drawn entirely without political data. Speculation of how these districts would vote is entirely absent from this proposal.

Now, let’s begin with Northern California and Sacramento:

Northern California

Link to Picture of Northern California


CA-1 (Blue):

Population – 59.6% white, 1.5% black, 27.3% Hispanic, 7.0% Asian, 1.6% Native American, 3.1% other

This district ranges from the vineyards of Napa Valley to the marijuana groves of Mendocino County. It covers a lot of space, but almost all the people live in the medium-sized towns and cities along the coast and dotted throughout the rest of the district (interestingly, it’s a lot less white than I initially expected). Perhaps the biggest problem with this district is that it divides the city Napa in two, the consequence of decisions made elsewhere in the map.

It is possible to advocate for a coastal district stretching from upper Sonoma County to the top of the state. This proposal decided not to do that for the sake of compactness; nevertheless, such a district would be well worth considering.

CA-2 (Green)

Population – 78.0% white, 1.4% black, 11.8% Hispanic, 2.4% Asian, 2.9% Native American, 3.6% other

This enormous district covers the northern-most portion of California. Like CA-1, there’s a lot of land covered here – but most of it is just empty space. Most of the population actually lives along the coast and in Redding.

CA-4 (Red)

Population – 79.1% white, 1.0% black, 11.9% Hispanic, 4.2% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 3.0% other

This district is composed of two entities. First are the exurbs of Sacramento, located in Placer County and composing the about half of the district’s population. They are joined by the communities in the mountainous Sierra Nevada, too small by themselves to form a single district.

Sacramento

Sacramento County is populous enough to support about two districts.

Link to Picture of Sacramento

CA-3 (Purple)

Population – 57.3% white, 7.7% black, 16.3% Hispanic, 13.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 4.8% other

CA-3 previously constituted a very gerrymandered district connecting suburban Sacramento with a bunch of unrelated communities. Since suburban Sacramento’s population has grown so much, it shrinks rapidly to compose only the eastern and southern suburbs of Sacramento.

CA-5 (Gold)

Population – 38.6% white, 12.3% black, 26.8% Hispanic, 17.2% Asian, 0.6% Native American, 4.6% other

Majority-Minority District

A wonderful example of California’s amazing diversity, CA-5 takes in downtown Sacramento itself. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are almost equally distributed – with whites composing a plurality despite being just 38.6% of the population. Moreover, this area is one of the most racially integrated in the United States; the district does not lump together a bunch of 90% white, 90% black, 90% Hispanic, and 90% Asian communities in one (as too often happens elsewhere). Rather, each people of different races actually live in the same neighborhoods.

The next post will take a look at the Bay Area.

--Inoljt

 

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CA-03: Progressive Democrat Dr. Bill Durston in Dead Heat with Incumbent Lungren

Dr. Bill Durston, a progressive Democrat running for Congress in California's 3rd Congressional District has just released a poll that shows that he is in a dead heat against the Republican incumbent, Dan Lungren.

From an email sent to Durston for Congress supporters on Tuesday, October 7th:

We've just received great news from a poll of 500 likely voters conducted by the respected polling firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, and Associates. Dr. Bill Durston is in a statistical dead heat with Dan Lungren in California's 3rd Congressional District!
When voters were asked who they would vote for if they were to vote today, 33% chose Lungren, 30%, chose Bill, 7% chose another candidate, and 30% were undecided. With a margin of error of 4%, the differences between Bill and Lungren were not statistically significant.

After hearing a positive profile about both Lungren and Bill, the tallies were even closer - 39% for Lungren and 38% for Bill. After hearing about some of Lungren's many shortcomings, including his Hawaii vacation paid for by special interests, his allegiance to the Bush-Cheney administration, and his fondness for taking money from Big Oil, voters chose Bill over Lungren by a margin of 43% to 34%, a difference which is highly statistically significant.

This news should bring more attention to the race for this seat. David Dayen from the Calitics blog wrote:

This could be a good time for outside groups to jump in.  CA-03 is one of those under-the-radar seats nationwide that is very, very winnable, and a late push could easily put Durston over the top.  Furthermore, he's a solid progressive Democrat who supports single-payer.

Once the voters of the 3rd Congressional District learn that Dr. Bill Durston is a decorated Marine combat Vietnam veteran and an emergency room physician, who has served both the country and his community, they will vote for him.  They are even more likely to vote for Bill when they learn that their current Representative, career politician and carpet-bagger Dan Lungren, cares more about the big money corporate special interests than he does about the people of his district. 

Hopefully, once the voters hear about some of Lungren's shortcomings, Durston will take the lead.

With your help, we will prove the politicos wrong and put Bill Durston into office!

There's more...

CA-03: Bill Durston gets some press while fighting against taxpayer-funded Lungren

In today's Sacramento Bee newspaper Dr. Bill Durston finally got some press coverage about his race against one of the most well-known California Republicans, Dan Lungren. You can decide whether it was a positive article or not, but one thing is for sure: Bill Durston is putting up a fight for this seat.

Part of Durston's fight to "take back our government from the special interests that control it, and to restore government of, by, and for the people" is online. He has recently created a video that pieces together clips from a debate he had with Lungren in 2006 about corruption and a more recent ABC News segment in which Lungren is found to be taking luxury vacations paid for by special interests, despite House ethics laws which prohibit such trips. If that video gets you riled up about Lungren, please consider sending Durston some love on his ActBlue page.

Speaking of ethics issues and abuse of power, one of the reasons Durston is having to fight such an uphill battle against Lungren, who refuses to debate him this year, is the fact that Lungren is paying for much of his campaigning with taxpayer money. Lungren has three "town hall meetings" coming up in the district next week and he is promoting them with color advertisements in the Sacramento Bee (a quarter-page full-color ad appeared Aug. 4), automated mass phone calls, and a fancy color mailer touting his "energy plan" that went out to residents of the 3rd congressional district. In tiny text on the mailer is: "This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense." These town hall meetings are nothing more than campaign stops. It's outrageous that Lungren's campaign for re-election is being funded by taxpayers like you, me, and Bill Durston himself.

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Why California has worse flood protection than NOLA

With the Katrina anniversary, there has been lots of talk about what government needs to do to protect citizens from another disaster. The other day, California Assemblymember John Laird told the Capitol Weekly, "We have less flood protection than they had in New Orleans. Sacramento is really not protected and the thousands of people who live here are at risk." But this wasn't a story about the anniversary, this was a report on how flood protection in California died a suspicious death in the legislature:

This week, just as Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata put on hold an eight-bill package of flood-protection legislation, one of his political committees received a $500,000 donation from the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), one of the package's biggest opponents.

The donation is the single largest that a Perata committee has received since he became Senate leader in 2004.

There's more...

One Great CA Assembly Candidate Keeping It Rural

I just love talking about Rob Haswell cause here is one candidate who has never run before and who's running one of the most energized and smartest campaigns in the Lake Tahoe area.

In case you haven't heard about Rob Haswell yet, and considering we're mostly talking about congressional and gubernatorial campaigns you probably haven't, he's running in California's open (!) 4th Assembly district which ranges from the suburbs of Sacramento up to Lake Tahoe. The district mostly overlapses with the 4th Congressional district represented by Abramoff buddy John Doolittle. Running against Doolittle is fighting Dem Charlie Brown.

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