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Carlsbad approves random draw to select redistricting commission

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council approved the creation of an independent redistricting committee by random drawing during its May 11 meeting to address the city’s elected districts for the remainder of the decade.

The meeting revealed a complex, and sometimes confusing, process to get to the point of how the council will set up the commission. In the end, the council approved a seven-member committee with three alternates all drawn at random.

As for the political ties for the seven primary members, two each will be democrats and republicans with the final three as “other.” Also, the council will require an individual to be a registered voter 18 or older, three alternates — one from each party and “other” — and be a resident for at least three years.

“What we are proposing to do is digital advertising that goes to mobile phones as well as desktops,” Kristina Ray, director of community and engagement, said of the city’s awareness campaign. “We want to make sure we’re reaching some of the people who don’t typically opt into government processes like this.”

The city went to district elections in 2017 and the current map was created by two residents — Arnie Cohen, a Republican, and Brian Flock, a Democrat who has since moved to Utah. The districts each contain similar elements, such as the coastline, Interstate 5 and bordering another city, as a way for each council member to be included with those issues.

Regardless, the majority of council members — Cori Schumacher, Priya Bhat-Patel and Teresa Acosta — felt a commission was a better method to determine the district map. The commission will use 2020 census data to create the maps, which are now a blank slate as the council cannot direct the commission as to how to build the maps.

Bhat-Patel and Acosta stressed the need for more fairness in the process and more equity within the selection of the commissioners. Bhat-Patel said those marginalized populations and people of color should be a focus with encouragement from the city to apply.

Mayor Matt Hall, along with Councilman Keith Blackburn, each said they preferred tweaking the current map, rather than forming a commission, as the lines are not expected to change too much as the city’s population increased by just more than 9,000 residents over the past several years.

Regardless, the council debated statistics and probability surrounding a number of concerns with a random draw and political representation and how those were determined.

“My feeling is there is going to be a wave of people applying,” Hall said.

Schumacher, meanwhile, argued for the council to install a random draw based on which district had a majority for a specific political party. For instance, if districts 1, 2, 3, each had a majority democrat registration, democrats would be selected followed by a mandatory republican in District 4 and three at-large selections.

No district has a political party with more than 36% of the registration, according to staff.

However, the council decided the four districts will have their own drawing and three citywide selections to cover the rest. Specific to the districts, a random draw will be conducted to determine the order of the draw by district, according to the council.

The council also discussed not imposing an age limit and including 17-year-olds who were pre-registered to vote. Hall said the commission could be made up entirely of 17- and 18-year-olds, leaving the council speechless for several seconds.

“Each district should actually be whichever majority is present,” Schumacher explained. “Anything that’s offset that should be citywide.”

The council had three options to determine the commission, including a panel of judges provided by JAMS San Diego or a random draw variation, where the City Clerk’s office draws half plus one of the names and then those commissioners select the remaining individuals.

The city will conduct an awareness campaign to encourage residents to apply, while also laying out the timeline for the public. The map must be approved no later than April 17, 2022, and there will be four public hearings plus two mapping workshops.