City council members throughout Orange County are choosing new election district maps that will determine voters’ representation in town and candidates’ political futures for the next ten years. 

But many cities have yet to make the final decision. 

This year also marks the first redistricting process for many Orange County cities, which moved away from the practice of having voters pick their city councils in a citywide election since the last redistricting cycle.

In most cases, the change came after lawsuits arguing city-wide elections diluted the voting power of a community of interest. 

Meanwhile, questions have arisen of whether to forgo the redistricting process entirely in some localities such as the City of Garden Grove – which moved to district elections in 2016 – and the Garden Grove Unified School District.

It’s one of a few localities which opted to forgo the redistricting process this time around, arguing their jurisdictions’ populations haven’t changed substantially upon review of updated U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Garden Grove Unified School District’s elected Board of Trustees will consider skipping the process at today’s meeting. Click here for information on how to access it.

[Read: Garden Grove Officials’ Push to Skip Redistricting Altogether Jolts Alarm in City Spanning Little Saigon]

New maps this year are based on the 2020 census data, and will go into effect in time for the 2022 election. 

The redistricting process in general can be a useful sounding board of what the community looks like and what its varying interests are, said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California.

“Even if an area’s demographics didn’t shift very much, the civic engagement landscape could shift — new community groups could form, more people may have gotten involved or mobilized for their interests over a given amount of time,” Romero said in a Monday phone interview.

Santa Ana & San Juan Capistrano to Hold Redistricting Public Hearings

Today, the Santa Ana city council is expected to hold their sixth public hearing on redistricting at 7 p.m. during their meeting.

In 2018, the city switched from at-large elections to a by-ward election system and held their first elections under the new system in 2020, according to the city website.

Many maps are still on the table for what Santa Ana will look like and the deadline for the final map choice is April 17.

While some of the county’s larger cities are nearly finished figuring out what their future will look like, other smaller cities are still figuring it out. 

San Juan Capistrano City Council members are continuing their process Tuesday night, reviewing census data prepared by a contractor to begin drawing up possible maps and listening to public concerns about where they think the lines should be. 

The city has already held two workshops discussing what the new maps could look like, and is set to talk about the issue during every city council meeting through March 15, 2022 according to the city’s staff report. 

The council meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, and is the second item on the agenda.

Anaheim May Get Three Majority Latino Districts

Last week, Anaheim City Council members narrowed down their selections to four maps at their fourth public hearing for redistricting, with a fifth map also going to be drawn up for consideration.

Residents however can still submit maps.

Back in 2016, the city adopted its first district boundary map based on census data from 2010 and now must be redrawn using data from the 2020 census.

Currently, only two of the the six districts in Anaheim have a majority latino citizen voting age population despite over 50% of Anaheim residents being Latino.

“I’m looking forward to having a minimum of three districts that are Latino that way at least the districts will reflect the population that we serve,” said Councilman Jose Diaz at the Jan. 25 meeting.

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Maps 104 and 106 would carve out two districts with a majority Latino citizen voting age population.

One of the maps still under consideration, named 114, would create three districts that are a majority Latino by citizen voting age population.

However, it would split up Platinum Triangle, which Councilman Stephen Faessel spoke out against doing at last week’s meeting and said the city could modify the map so it doesn’t break up the area.

Councilman Trevor O’Neil spoke out against districting and said it creates competing interests and “vulcanizes” issues – creating scenarios where council members put their districts before what’s best for the entire city.

“That said we have districts and I’m not here to take them apart,” he said. 

Councilmembers also voiced support for keeping the boundaries as close to the ones already in place as much as possible.

“They served us well.” Councilman Jose Moreno said at the meeting. “District one and two hadn’t had a council representative in 22 years, until district elections and now we see the power of that, two representatives up here … who have a voice from a part of our city that didn’t have one for 22 years.” 

Later on in the meeting, District Two representative Gloria Ma’ae pushed back on the notion that West Anaheim had been voiceless for two decades until the city started to hold elections by district.

“I’ve been involved for 20 years and we had the entire Council representing us, every single resident in the city,” she said at the meeting. “I recognize now there are some advantages to districting, but I felt very good about the representation we had back then.”

Ma’ae was appointed by the council to replace Jordan Brandman after controversy led to his resignation last year.

Map 115, which is no longer under consideration, would have divided the Little Arabia community as well as other neighborhoods including the resort district.

While the council has never held a discussion on recognizing Little Arabia despite years of community calls to do so, Mayor Harry Sidhu was against dividing the Arab community.

​​Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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