SAN DIEGO – The San Diego State Independent Redistribution Committee approved a new voting map for the state’s five control districts on Dec. 14. Once U.S. census data is collected, districts must be updated every ten years to accommodate demographic changes. This was the first time that redistribution had been assigned to citizens’ commission members, rather than to state-elected officials. To make matters worse, they did this process in the midst of the plague, receiving thousands of comments via email or Zoom meeting. I spoke with David Bam, chairman of the Union-Tribune Commission, to find out how the redistribution process works and what to learn next. Beim, a retired U.S. diplomat who has worked in the Middle East, Europe, and Washington, D.C., and a naval adviser in San Diego, talks about the conflicts, challenges, and successes of the 14-member commission.
How was this redistribution commission different from previous redistribution efforts?
Previously, the redistribution was done by the Supervisory Board itself! The San Diego State Independent Redistribution Committee (IRC) differed in that it consisted of 14 volunteers who reflected the state’s geography, politics, ethnicity, and other aspects. The IRC was completely independent of the Supervisory Board and was prohibited from deliberately giving advantages or disadvantages to political parties, officials, or candidates. The IRC-approved map is final and will not be reviewed or approved by the Supervisory Board.
What is the reason for convening an independent commission?
After an independent commission redistributed in 2011, the state proposed it to the legislature itself, and it is now reflected in state law. An independent commission was convened to ensure a redistribution process independent of elected officials and political influence. Instead, the process is based on non-political criteria, such as the 2020 census data, the consensus of the people of San Diego, and the proximity and density of districts.
What was the process of electing the commission members like?
The process of selecting the 14 commission members has four stages: applications from more than 300 residents of the state, non-partisan staff from the state reviewing these applications and selecting 60 from the “most qualified applicants” in accordance with the law; Lottery selection of the first group of 8 commission members; and two meetings to evaluate the remaining finalists and elect six additional commissioners.
What influenced the process of implementing the public opinion poll?
IRC held 10 official public hearings; About 800 oral comments were heard in 49 meetings; and received more than 3,600 comments electronically over a 13-month period. Public participation also included more than 30 events, with independent commissioners explaining the redistribution to district residents, the IRC’s mission, and the concentration of public feedback.
How did the delay in the census affect your efforts?
The postponement of the 2020 census has severely affected the IRC’s efforts. On the one hand, delays have increased public education time on redistribution; on the other hand, delays significantly reduced redistribution map processing time. The law stipulates that it will take the IRC about four months from receiving the census data to approving the final map. In reality, there was only three months between the IRC receiving the updated census data on 20 September and approving the final map by 15 December.
What were the main challenges you faced?
It was the state’s first independent redistribution commission, which required the creation of a new structure and process without the memory or example of any organization. Coronavirus infection (COVID-19) has led to many other challenges, from not meeting in person to allowing valuable time from the commission business to allowing the virtual process. However, the commissioners overcame these challenges by devoting extra time and energy to these volunteer tasks.
In the first constituency, can you tell us about the majority minority Latin polling station?
Latin and other minority groups have the opportunity to continue working in the “majority-minority” 1st constituency, as well as minority groups in the 4th and 5th districts and other electoral coalitions. Similar opportunities for fair representation and participation are also included in Districts 2 and 2. 3.
How do you reflect the different perceptions of the Northern District?
As with the IRC across the state, additional and competitive public comments were heard from the region. The final map stores Escondido as a whole, in a single district, within a well-defined community of interests in that part of the province.
How did you resolve the conflict over the settlement of El Cajon and surrounding areas, including the Chaldean community and other immigrant groups?
Like Escondido, El Cajon has a number of associations associated with other interesting communities in the east and west. The final map reflects additional, competing inputs, even within different groups, and balances these inputs with other statutory criteria.
What did you learn that will help you in your next redistribution efforts this time around?
It is hoped that the next redistribution efforts will not face the plague, but there will still be a need to meet more people, communities and organizations than to wait for the commission to arrive. The imaging process is especially important during compression. It is important to identify the intentional process of map development, evaluation, and refinement early, and to make course corrections along the way and over time to gain public input. The integrity of the commissioner is another key factor, especially as there is a lot of political feedback from the public. The IRC is proud to have strictly adhered to the requirements of the law, which prohibits political influence and does not deliberately create any advantages or disadvantages for political parties, officials or candidates.