Redistricting: Your guide to the political map-making process in Long Beach

Long Beach is weeks away from having new political maps that will determine City Council districts for the next 10 years, and determine who can run for board of education and college trustee positions.

The redistricting process is required by law after the release of Census data every 10 years and the new maps adopted will be in place until 2031.

The alterations to City Council maps could have big implications for not only who is eligible to run for a district, but also a change in campaign tactics to win over a new constituent base. Meanwhile, changes to school district lines seem like they could be marginal.

New maps need to be approved by early December to be included in the 2022 elections. To help you understand what this all means to you our City Hall reporter Jason Ruiz has put together a handy guide below.

Plus, catch him talking with education reporter Mike Guardabascio and Dan Vicuña, national redistricting manager for Common Cause, on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 12 p.m. on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. They’ll also be taking questions from our readers!

What maps are currently being considered?

Right now there is only one final potential City Council map, but others could be selected at the Oct. 27 public meeting. Three versions of the new LBUSD districts have also been presented to the board of education for consideration.

A proposed map approved by the Long Beach Independent Redistricting Commission on Oct. 20, 2021.

The lone map currently available for public review keeps all City Council incumbents in their districts, but there are some other big changes. It has the Los Cerritos neighborhood moving into a new district that would include most of Bixby Knolls and the Wrigley neighborhoods. All of Cambodia Town would be consolidated into the present day 6th District.

While most of East Long Beach saw minimal changes, the present day 4th District is expanded south to 7th Street and the current 3rd District is expanded west to include all of Bluff Heights. The city’s Westside is also consolidated into the current 1st District.

This map and any others are subject to additional changes at upcoming meetings of the Redistricting Commission.

Why does this matter and what does this mean for residents?

These maps will determine who can run for City Council, school district and college board of trustees, and who can vote for them, over the next 10 years. Each governing agency is undergoing its own process and each needs to produce maps by the end of the year for inclusion in the 2022 elections.

For instance, in the council map under public review the residents of the Bluff Heights and Los Cerritos neighborhoods, who helped elect a council person in 2020, would get to vote again in the 2022 elections. But residents who live in the Park Estates and St. Mary neighborhoods would have to wait until 2026, six years after they last voted in a City Council election.

It could also change who you turn to for help with city issues like graffiti, fireworks complaints, illegally dumped items and so on. If you’re used to working with one council person and they or you are drawn into a different district, you’d have to establish a connection with a new representative.

What does this mean for elected officials?

Initial City Council maps showed at least one council incumbent being drawn out of their district, which in some cases could require them to move if they want to seek reelection. The Redistricting Commission could select additional maps to advance that pose issues for other incumbents at its Oct. 27 meeting.

Regardless of whether incumbents are drawn out or left in their current districts, changing the boundaries around them will change their constituencies. That could change the type of candidate that could win those districts in the future.

The first map moved forward by the commission would make the present day 7th District significantly more white because of the inclusion of the Los Cerritos neighborhood. The current 8th District, which would lose Los Cerritos, would be less white, with Latino, Black and Asian voters increasing their influence. The current 4th District would become significantly more suburban and white because of the proposed loss of its share of Cambodia Town in Central Long Beach and its expansion into Southeast Long Beach.

FAQs

Can I access other district assets?

Public testimony over the past few months has included a swath of complaints that drawing district lines will separate residents from things like beaches, parks and other city assets. While those areas could ultimately be drawn out of or into districts it won’t prevent anyone from accessing them.

Who do I vote for anyway?

This is a link to the current City Council district map. In the 2022 election the odd-numbered districts, as well as citywide positions like mayor, city attorney and city auditor, will be up for a vote. The LBUSD Board of Education and Long Beach Community College District are both broken up into five districts.

Find representatives that represent Long Beach at the local, state and federal level here.

BONUS: Terms to understand and the history of redistricting

Gerrymandering: This is the process of drawing political lines to favor a specific political party or incumbent. Extreme gerrymandering has been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts but is still a problem in some parts of the country.

Gerrymandering can be used to break up specific voting blocks based on ethnicity or party preference to ensure that certain candidates have a better chance of winning elections. It got its name from the former U.S. Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who, during his time as governor of Massachusetts, signed a bill creating a partisan district in Boston that was said to look like a salamander.

Long Beach has its own gerrymandered animal in the Whale’s Tail, something that is expected to be lopped off in the final map.

A screenshot of a Long Beach City Council District map. These lines are in the process of being redrawn by the city’s redistricting commission.

Redistricting: One of the ways states, cities and counties have fought back against gerrymandering is by using an independent commission like the one Long Beach is using to redraw its political lines, something that is required by federal law with the release of each Census update every decade.

Prior to a ballot measure creating Long Beach’s redistricting commission in 2018, the lines were drawn by city staff at the direction of the City Council. The Long Beach commission is considering things like federal voting rights laws that prohibit splitting up protected classes of people like minorities and the LGBTQ community, while also trying not to separate established neighborhoods and keeping new districts contiguous and as compact as possible.

The statewide redistricting commission, which is redrawing State Assembly, Senate and Congressional district lines, was created with the help of Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who supported a 2010 ballot measure that was approved by over 61% of voters.

History: Census and Constitution

The Census has been conducted since 1790 as a way to keep track of the population and ensure that equal representation was given to United States citizens. The United States Constitution codified a decennial (every 10 years) Census count, which is used to determine which lines would be redrawn.

Census data now provides a slew of information regarding income, education and ethnicity but is still used to draw political lines from City Council seats to Congressional districts. Like the Congressional lines, other election boundaries are supposed to be drawn to ensure that there is an approximately equal population in each district.

In Long Beach, some districts are geographically bigger because of the amount of single-family housing in those districts. Others, like those in Central Long Beach and Downtown, are much smaller because of the denser populations that live there.

This year’s Census was delayed by the pandemic and legal challenges to a controversial citizenship question which translated into the city getting Census data months later than it should have. Because of that, every redistricting body is working on a condensed timeline to approve final maps before the end of the year.

Redistricting stories to get you up to speed

With neighborhoods split in past redistricting, some want a new commission to fix old mistakes

Goal of unifying Cambodians into one voting bloc could be in jeopardy, activists worry

Long Beach population shifts could mean changes are coming to City Council district lines

Here are LBUSD’s proposed new districts for school board members

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