Cities Undertaking Redistricting Based ON 2020 Census

The 16 of San Bernardino County’s cities which hold by-district elections and the county government are awork either determining whether they need to, or actually moving forward to, redraw their electoral district maps in the aftermath of the 2020 Census.
The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to release 2020 Census numbers toward the end of August. California’s statewide database will release the state’s 2020 redistricting data later, in October. Already, however, preliminary numbers, which are believed to deviate by no more than a few percentage points from the soon-to-be-available official numbers, are available.
The goal in redistricting is to create or maintain electoral districts which are as close as possible to being mathematically identical in terms of population. The census data is used to achieve that. It is possible that the growth in some communities has been uniform geographically, such that no shift or change in electoral districts or wards will be necessary. It is anticipated, however that changes will be made to some districts or wards in most of the county’s cities, as well as to at least two of the county’s five supervisorial districts.
In those jurisdictions where redistricting must be carried out, the governing boards of those governmental agencies will be the final arbiter of where district or ward lines will be drawn.
Traditionally and until quite recently, only two of the county’s cities had district or ward electoral systems – San Bernardino and Colton. Redlands in 1989 switched to by-district elections, but abandoned them after 1995.
Beginning in 2014, a number of lawyers based outside of San Bernardino County – R. Rex Parris, Milton Grimes, Kevin Shenkman and Matthew Barragan – began using provisions of the California Voter Rights Act to challenge cities for engaging in what was asserted to be racially-polarized or ethnically-polarized voting. Those law firms threatened to bring lawsuits against those cities which did not adopt by-district elections, replete with districts wherein so-called protected minority groups, which in practical terms in San Bernardino County meant Latinos, constituted a majority or a plurality. The intent was to all but ensure that members of those protected minority groups obtained representation on the respective city councils in those cities where the suits were threatened. Because the California Voter Rights Act contained a provision by which an entity bringing a lawsuit against a city to force it into holding by-district elections could not be held liable for the city’s legal costs if the suit was unsuccessful and because cities that did not prevail in such suits were consigned to paying a victorious plaintiff’s legal costs, most cities folded when threatened with such a suit.
A lawyer issuing such a demand letter to a city was entitled to a $45,000 settlement from the city upon the city complying with the demand. Thus, a spate of such demand letters were issued in the 2014/2015 timeframe. As a consequence, Highland, Chino Hills, Chino, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Redlands, Yucaipa, Big Bear Lake, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Barstow, Apple Valley and Hesperia transitioned to by-district elections. The districts that were drawn up for those cities and which have been used in the last two and three election cycles were based upon the 2010 Census.
Yet holding at-large elections in San Bernardino County are Montclair, Ontario Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, Adelanto and Victorville.
21 of the county’s 24 municipalities have town or city councils consisting of five members. Colton and Needles have city councils with six council members and a mayor. San Bernardino has seven council members and a mayor. In all three of those cases, the council members are elected by-district or by-ward, and the mayors are elected at-large.
As part of the redistricting process, cities or towns are required to hold at least four public hearings at which the public is invited to provide input regarding the composition of one or more council districts. At least one public hearing must be held before the council draws a draft map or the lines of the proposed council boundaries. At least two public hearings have to be held after the council has drawn a draft map or maps of the proposed council boundaries. At least one public hearing or public workshop must be held on a Saturday, on a Sunday, or after 6 p.m. on a weekday Monday through Friday. These public hearings must occur in buildings accessible to persons with disabilities.
Public input on the drawing of the map must, by law, be allowed.
Under Senate Bill 1018, cities have a degree of latitude in how redistricting is to be carried out. A city or town council can, if it chooses, perform the redistricting on its own. The city council can also appoint a redistricting advisory commission to assist it. A city or town can delegate the districting authority to a commission, and simply ratify by a vote the commission’s map. A city or town, through its council, can create a hybrid districting or redistricting commission. A council can also contract with a county redistricting commission or demographics company to provide it with a district map it can ratify.
National Demographics Corporation was used by a multitude of San Bernardino County’s towns and cities in assisting with the drawing of the electoral maps adopted over the last six years. It appears that company will be widely used during the upcoming electoral map redrafting effort.
National Demographics Corporation did come in for some degree of criticism during the drawing of district lines for many cities in 2016 and 2018, in that the maps drawn by the company appeared to favor the incumbent council members who had voted to retain its services. In case after case, the cities and towns adopted district voting or ward maps that were gerrymandered to provide incumbent councilmembers an advantage by placing them into districts that did not include other incumbents, and by timing the elections in such a way that the incumbents’ districts held elections at the end of the electoral cycle terminating with the elapsing of the close of the term the incumbents held as a result of their most recent at-large elections.
San Bernardino County’s cities and towns holding by-district or by-ward elections are under the gun to to adopt and submit a new map to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters by the April 18, 2022 deadline that office has set so it can meet its cut-off dates for the preparation of election materials, such as the sample ballots and the actual ballots for the June primary and November gubernatorial/general election.

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