CARLSBAD — There is approximately one month left before the city has its new electoral maps.
The City of Carlsbad Independent Redistricting Commission will hold its third of four scheduled virtual public hearings at 6 p.m. on Jan. 13. Dozens of maps have already been submitted to the city and its contracted demographer, National Demographics Corporation.
The commission is using newly released 2020 census data, although the process was slowed due to the pandemic and the state continues to lag releasing the data.
The maps must be approved no later than April 17, while the commission will hold a regular meeting on Jan. 27 and a final public hearing on Feb. 17. Shannon Kelly, a demographer at National Demographics Corporation, has been administering and advising the commission on the maps and state and federal law, along with Deputy City Attorney Cindie McMahon.
“In terms of the decision-making process, NDC has shared the federal, state and best practices criteria with the commission several times (at every meeting) and that will continue to be a core part of the presentations made to the commission,” said Kristina Ray, the city’s director of communication and engagement.
The current map was created in 2017 by residents Arnie Cohen and Brian Flock, who has since moved out of state. Cohen, a Republican, and Flock, a Democrat, each drew a map, then compared those and created one the Carlsbad City Council adopted.
Cohen and Flock said in a previous story they wanted all districts to have portions of the coast, railroad, Interstate 5, El Camino Real and border a neighboring city. The city, meanwhile, went to districts to avoid a potential lawsuit, although many cities in the state still have at-large City Council elections.
The commission, which consists of seven people and was created by the City Council, started in late July 2021 and holds monthly meetings, along with several public hearings and public workshops. Any member of the public may submit a map through one of the tools provided by the city.
The commission’s directives are to keep the core of existing districts and consider communities of interest. Additionally, the maps cannot favor or discriminate against a political party and must contain: equal populations (within a 10% deviation) without gerrymandering, undivided neighborhoods, easily identifiable boundaries, according to Kelly.
Also, there was debate over the residences of an incumbent and political party during the Dec. 16 meeting. Chairman Michael Fabiano asked about the differences between where an incumbent lives versus considering a political party.
Fabiano wanted to avoid drawing out an incumbent, but McMahon said it could not be considered. Kelly, meanwhile, said voter registration also could not be considered by the commission, however, it would appear difficult to prevent the public from doing so as the tools used by the city don’t include voter registration information; but an individual could use county registration by districts to draw their map.
The commission also assigns each district designation, such as District 1, etc. In theory, the districts could change numerically despite boundaries remaining relatively the same.
At times, the commission has veered off its course discussing issues like the McClellan-Palomar Airport and other political topics, which cannot be considered for the maps. At times, McMahon has had to reel in the commission and keep the discussion germane to redistricting in accordance with state law.
Fabiano asked for voter registration data during a recent meeting, but McMahon told Fabiano it was a violation of the law, and the commission could not use it in their maps.
The commission also discussed the city’s Housing Element during its Dec. 16 meeting, as several commissioners throughout the process have discussed how to incorporate future housing and population growth within the maps.
“Regarding specific other criteria …, like considering future growth or school district boundaries, it really depends on the criteria that are being applied,” Ray explained. “For example, some public comments suggested grouping people who live in the same school district because they share a common interest.”
Additionally, the commission has also looked at how to incorporate the Growth Management Plan quadrants as a potential direction for a new map, along with looking at school district maps to layer into the new city map.
Commissioner Nancy Arndt has championed a coastal district to run the course of the city’s shoreline, but the other six commissioners disagreed. Others said they were open to having four districts more like the four quadrants in the GMP, while others have shown an interest to tweak the boundaries, but keeping them mostly the same.
“We heard a lot about quadrants,” Kelly said during the Dec. 16 meeting. “It’s not perfect because the quadrants don’t always match with census blocs and roads.”
Disclosure: The author of this report, Steve Puterski, is an alternate commissioner and has submitted a map. He is a non-voting commissioner and does not take part in commission discussions.