By Daniel Ritz
During their March 6 meeting, City Council held its first of two public meetings to solicit public input on the potential composition of voting district drafting maps. During their meeting on Feb. 20, City Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution of intention to transition to by-district voting after receiving a letter from attorney Russell D. Myrick of the RDM Law Firm in February threatening to sue the city of Dana Point for alleged violations of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).
Douglas Johnson, president of National Demographics Corporation (NDC), gave a short presentation outlining the timeline of necessary events and meetings for by-district City Council elections to become a reality by Election Day, Nov. 6. He explained that if by-district voting was carried out, three city council districts would hold their first by-district elections. The two remaining districts, would hold their first by-district elections on Nov. 3, 2020.
Johnson explained that under federal legislation, districting requires that each district be of relatively equal population, may not violate the Federal Voting Rights Act and cannot partake in racial gerrymandering, or the division of “protected classes.”
“There are no real right answers,” Johnson said, explaining how the Latino populations that RDM’s initial letter discussed, are in-fact too small to enable a majority-minority district.
Council member Paul Wyatt then asked how the City of Dana Point can go out of its way to be sure that Latino voters feel enabled and motivated to participate in the election of their desired City Council members.
Douglas shared a demographic summary of Dana Point, showing that each of the five proposed City Council districts would have about 7,400 residents (one-fifth of the 33,351 population).
In the Nov. 2016 election, data from NDC showed that Latino voters accounted for 1,492 votes, 8 percent, of the 18,038 reported casted ballots.
District formation is implemented by focusing on two main questions: What is a neighborhood or community of interest? Does a community of interest want to be united in one district, or to be divided to have a voice in multiple elections?
During the March 6 meeting, Council member John Tomlinson voiced concern over the City Council’s personal interactions with NDC. The Council unanimously, informally, agreed to not have individual contact with NDC concerning Dana Point’s district formation.
The second public hearing for by-district voting will be held at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 20. NDC’s presentation can be seen in full, including demographic voting data, on www.danapoint.org- DR