ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas and a representative from a nonpartisan demographics firm are hoping more residents will provide input on the city’s redistricting process during its first in-person workshop this Saturday at the Encinitas Community & Senior Center.
The redistricting workshop will be the first opportunity for residents to have hands-on time with the demographer’s tools that will be used to draw maps and time to speak and ask questions of the demographers and staff who will be working on the process.
The city’s district maps were last drawn in 2017 when Encinitas moved away from at-large voting following a threat of legal action from Malibu-based attorney Kevin Shenkman. The city must now legally redraw lines based on new census data, or every 10 years.
Shannon Kelly, a representative from the National Demographics Corporation, the demographer hired by the city to facilitate the process, told The Coast News it’s possible the city opts to make little or no changes to the district map.
“As the City’s demographer, we do not have a pre-determined expectation either way about how much the map will change,” Kelly said. “That is a decision that is up to the (Encinitas) City Council. However, given that the current Encinitas map was drawn in 2017 and Encinitas has experienced only modest population growth since the 2010 census, it is possible that the current districts are population balanced. If that is the case, the City Council could look to keep the existing districts or make only minor changes.”
Residents will have the option to choose from both physical paper maps and different online tools to submit maps for the city’s consideration. Both options will be reviewed during this weekend’s workshop.
Maps submitted to the city may be submitted anonymously, which harkens back to the city’s initial districting process when several of the final maps up for consideration were found to be submitted anonymously by then Encinitas Councilmember Tasha Boerner Horvath.
“There is a place to put a name and you can describe it,” Kelly said. “And it is nice for us to have it identified so if there were questions there might be information we can get from that individual. It’s nice to be able to address a question but anonymous is totally fine as well.”
Kelly also clarified that there are no legal requirements regarding anonymous maps — whether that is requiring a city to take anonymous maps or prohibiting them, leaving the door open for elected officials to submit their own map proposals which could lead to gerrymandering concerns.
“Being a professional demographer, that’s part of our role,” Kelly said. “That’s why when we look at them objectively no matter who’s name is on it or if it’s anonymous. And we put it through the same rigorous process to see if it meets the requirements of the Fair Maps Act and does it meet the requirements of federal law.”
The city held its first virtual public hearing on the redistricting process last month during its City Council meeting but no one from the public provided comments.
The city and the demographer hope for greater participation at the workshop this weekend with an in-person meeting rather than a virtual one.
“NDC works with clients all over the state and we have some jurisdictions with significantly more participation via Zoom,” Kelly said. “But we have somewhere we aren’t getting that participation at all. We have hope more people will come on October 16.”
Encinitas must have a final map completed by April 17, 2022. The timeline for completing the process is truncated due to the delay in U.S. Census data due to the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide adjustments that needed to be made before releasing the full data.
The public workshop will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Encinitas Community Center on Oakcrest Park Drive in Encinitas.