ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Independent Redistricting Commission has drafted a preliminary electoral map for the city as part of the redistricting process and will finalize the proposed map by Feb. 23.
During a Feb. 2 Escondido City Council meeting, City Clerk Zach Beck presented the commission’s preliminary map to the city’s elected officials. The map has not been finalized, as the city will hold several public hearings before sending the final proposal to a council vote on Feb. 23, according to Beck.
The new map makes some adjustments to Escondido’s four districts based on factors required by federal law, including keeping the district population sizes reasonably equal, keeping communities contiguous and compact with one another, protecting communities with shared interests, and protecting the voting power of racial/ethnic minorities, particularly Escondido’s Latino voting-age population.
Per federal voting rights laws, Escondido is required to maintain at least one district whose majority population is a racial/ethnic minority. While the city’s District 1 currently meets that requirement with a population that is 53.64% Latino, the district as it is mapped fails to meet the equal population requirement, as the district’s overall population is significantly smaller than the other three districts (the ideal population size for each district is 37,879).
To solve this problem and ensure Escondido’s compliance with voting rights legislation, the Redistricting Commission’s preliminary map expands the overall population of District 1 from 35, 159 to 38.833, which will give Escondido a population that is 53.12% Latino and keep the district’s population in line with equal voting age population standards.
District 1 would extend further north and east than it does currently, taking in a sizeable area running along Escondido Creek including Montemar Avenue and Glen View Elementary school.
In coming up with the preliminary map, the Redistricting Commission also considered connecting communities with shared interests, Beck said. City residents, through public comments, indicated that they were favorably inclined towards creating two somewhat more urban regions — districts 1 and 3 — and two slightly more rural districts 2 and 4.
The newly formed District 2 would be wider and broader than before, taking in a significant chunk of territory in the city’s southeast corridor, including neighborhoods near Orange Grove Place, Timber Creek Lane, and Vistamonte Glen.
“With the map for district 2, the commission listened to a lot of concerns that residents in these communities had regarding fire issues and the concerns of suburban and rural communities, so to that end District 2 is definitely the most expansive out of the districts that we have right now with this map, reflecting the shared interests of those rural residents,” Beck said.
Conversely, District 3 would become more centralized and urban, losing some of its southeastern sprawl to District 2 while moving further southwest along Escondido Creek.
District 4 would move slightly northwest, expanding up to West El Norte Parkway at its most northern point while also moving west along Interstate 78 all the way to Hidden Valley Drive.
While the majority of the city council members refrained from making any qualitative remarks as to the new boundaries, Councilman Michael Morasco leveled heavy criticism towards the preliminary map, in particular expressing concerns over the way that the new District 2 was constructed.
“District 2 isn’t close to being compact in this new map, it’s barely contiguous, and there are no commonalities at all between the people in the northeast and southeast portion of this district, so they just really missed the mark on that,” Morasco said. He also refuted the notion that the new district’s rural residents would have much in common with each other.
“The District 2 proposal, the borders and the small islands of properties that it creates just don’t sync well…the commonalities stated by the commission as far as environmental and fire concerns just don’t hold water within the context of what we’ve seen historically in Escondido in the last six decades or more.”
Morasco, who is Latino himself, also said that he’s concerned that in the effort to strengthen the power of the Latino voting constituency in District 1 and District 3, the commission went too far in giving these voters a disproportionate amount of power.
“In the follow-up meetings with the commission, there have been statements made that this map was somewhat motivated by trying to create two predominantly Latino districts, but the actuality that we have to consider here is that the Latino community represents 35% of the voting-age population in the city of Escondido…in their attempt to try and create two predominantly Latino districts, it almost creates issues regarding racial representation in the opposite direction,” Morasco said.
Under the draft map, District 3 would go from being a region with a Latino voting-age population of 39.26% to a district that would now be 46.78% Latino.
Mayor Paul McNamara disagreed with Morasco’s comments, expressing that the map’s heavy emphasis on prioritizing the voting power of the Latino community seemed entirely appropriate in his eyes.
“My reaction to his comments is that the commission is trying to comply with everything, all of the guidance as far as including communities of interest as well as ethnic diversity…that’s what the focus should be, is on those demographics of ethnicity and communities of interests,” McNamara said.
“From what I understand of our population and where people live I think that so far they [the commission] has done a pretty decent job, I’m not totally sure of what Councilman Morasco’s concerns are but I’m anxious to move forward with this process nonetheless.”