Boundaries of the Ceres City Council districts will need to be redrawn now that the 2020 Census has been completed.
The city drew the present four council districts in 2015, after a Measure D ballot election in which voters decided to end the old practice of electing members at-large.
City Attorney Tom Hallinan explained on Monday that once the 2020 federal census is completed, state law requires the City Council to review and adjust the boundaries of its districts to ensure compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. That state law was intended to prevent an at-large election system from diluting minority voting power and “impairing underrepresented groups” from influencing the outcome of a race. The act made it easier for plaintiffs in California to challenge at-large voting systems which can dilute the voting power of underrepresented groups.
The four districts must be carved so they are roughly equal in population. They also must be geographically contiguous and be drawn to keep together people who share common social or economic interests.
The new boundaries must be drawn and adopted no later than 205 days before the city’s next general election which is April 17, 2022.
Since Ceres switched to district elections, state lawmakers added more requirements when drawing boundaries. The Fair Maps Act took effect Jan. 1, 2020, creating standardized redistricting criteria aimed to keep communities together and to prohibit partisan gerrymandering. It also contains expanded community outreach and a requirement for four public hearing. At least one public hearing is required before the new map is drawn, at least two after it’s drawn and at least one scheduled to take place on a weekend or after 6 p.m. on a weekday. Live translation into languages must be offered if requested 72 hours in advance.
“We have new outreach requirements as well,” said Hallinan. “So we have to take steps to encourage residents including those in underrepresented communities and non-English speaking communities to participate in the public review process. A good faith effort will satisfy that requirement, and would include providing information to media organizations that provide city news coverage, including media organizations that serve language minority groups.”
Under SB 1018, in addition to appointing an advisory and an independent commission, the council may instead elect to appoint a hybrid commission or contract with a county’s independent commission.
City Manager Tom Westbrook recommended hiring National Demographic Corporation to help the city take the necessary steps in the redistricting process. The firm helped the city to draw the first districts in 2015.
Hallinan said he doesn’t imagine the districts will change much.