Fullerton’s City Council will consider on Tuesday, August 17 whether to decide new boundaries for council districts themselves or instead appoint a commission for that purpose. Council districts are required by law to be redrawn every ten years utilizing data from the Federal census.
The City is calling the process “Redistrict Fullerton,” proposing a set of hearings from October through March. A new district map must be adopted by April 17, 2022 for elections in November next year.
The current five-district map was selected by the City Council in 2016 from several public submissions and placed on the ballot along with the decision to adopt council districts. Voters only had the choice to adopt elections by district along with the single map selected by the Council, or to reject them both as one decision. Previously, Council seats were elected at-large for the whole city.
The Council will be presented three different models that may be adopted by the Council if they choose to delegate some, or all of the redistricting process to a commission.
According to the City staff’s agenda report, the Council may appoint a purely advisory commission, then select a new map based on the commission’s recommendations. Alternately, the Council could appoint a completely independent commission that would choose the district lines instead of the Council making the final decision. A third hybrid option would allow an appointed commission to narrow the choice of district maps down to two for a final selection by the Council. The number of seats on any commission model is not specified in the agenda report.
State law requires that at least four public hearings be held to solicit input about drawing the new boundaries. Several such workshops were held in preparation for the 2016 decision and were led by an outside consultant, but no commission was appointed for that purpose. The lack of a formal commission left the workshop process open to complaints of disproportionate influence by organized political groups and of inconsistent attention to its purposes.
In 2016, the Council was criticized for discussing the repercussions of competing district maps on their own prospective districts when deciding which map to present to the voters. The final map they chose was also criticized for splitting the downtown area between five eccentrically shaped elongated districts instead of dedicating a seat to represent downtown area residents. State legislation passed since that time requires that new district boundaries must be geographically contiguous, and that districts should be “easily identifiable and understandable by residents.”
If the Council chooses to form a redistricting commission, appointments to it would be made on September 21.
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