City Council Holds First Public Hearing on Districting Process

Citrus Heights, CA  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - In January, the Citrus Heights City Council announced its intent to transition to district-based elections in order to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. The February 28 City Council meeting included the first of two public hearings to inform the public about the districting process, present available options, and receive community input about drawing the district boundaries.  

Representatives from National Demographics Corporation (NDC)—which assists states and local governments in the districting process by providing demographic analysis and public opinion surveys—presented an introduction to districting and explained the timeline for creating the voting districts.

This meeting introduced the topic, educated the public about the districting process, and invited residents to provide input about district preferences. The second public hearing will be held at the City Council meeting on March 14. Based on public input received, draft maps will be released by May 16. Two public hearings, on May 23 and June 13, will be held to discuss and revise the draft maps and plan election sequencing. The official ordinance will be introduced after the conclusion of those hearings.

In order for the districts to be certified, they must be drawn using population data from the 2010 census. Based on the population of voting-age citizens, each of the five districts needs to contain approximately 16,660 residents. There can be no more than a 10% difference—1,660 residents—between the most- and the least-populated districts.

The first election using the new districts will be held in 2020, when two Council seats will be up for re-election—seats currently held by Vice Mayor Jeff Slowey and Councilmember Bret Daniels. NDC explained that they strive to respect voter choice by drawing districts so that no current councilmembers would reside within the same district. Because the voters have already elected those councilmembers, that choice should be taken into account.

The remaining Council seats—currently held by Mayor Jeannie Bruins, Councilmember Steve Miller, and Councilmember Porsche Middleton—will be up for re-election in 2022.  The upcoming 2020 census data will be released in 2021, so it is possible the districts will need to be redrawn at that time, prior to the 2022 election.

NDC explained that they strive to create districts that are compact and contiguous, so it is easy for people to understand which district they reside in. This can be done by using visible boundaries such as highways, major roads, parks, neighborhood landmarks, rivers, or other natural features of the landscape.

Another factor to consider is whether communities of interest— defined as a neighborhood or community that shares interests, views, problems, or characteristics—would prefer to be united together in one voting block or divided into separate districts so they have a voice in multiple elections. Communities of interest can also include school attendance areas and shared demographic characteristics such as common languages. 

The public is encouraged to participate in the process by submitting draft maps showing their preference for how the city should be divided into districts. NDC will professionally produce every draft map, including demographic information, so they can be submitted to the City Council for consideration.

A public participation kit is available online to members of the public. Residents can draw their proposed map on a printable city map showing population units, using a calculator to ensure that each district they draw contains a population of approximately 16,660. There is also an Excel file available to use along with the city map that will provide the resulting demographics for each district created. An interactive map is also available, which allows residents to zoom in and out on the population unit boundaries.

To download the public participation kit, visit www.citrusheights.net. Residents can drop off paper versions of their draft maps directly to City Hall or email them to CitrusHeights@NDCresearch.com. Maps need to be submitted by May 13, 2019.

Vice Mayor Jeff Slowey expressed hope that the public will get involved in the process and take the time to draw maps for consideration.

Residents who do not want to draw a map but would like to provide input about factors that should be considered during the districting process can provide input by emailing cityclerk@citrusheights.net.