Anaheim is Less Subject to Gerrymandering than You Might Think – Look at the Maps


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Worried about how Anaheim might be gerrymandered?  You can mostly relax.

The City of Anaheim has either removed or hidden its tool that allowed people to redistrict the city, which is too bad because if it were still there I could offer you better maps than the shoddy ones I provide below.  Still, I think that my main point will be pretty clear: if you’re going to try to gerrymander Anaheim, especially into only four districts, you don’t have as much to work with as you might think.

You might be able to do it by eliminating some of the rules that were set out in that mapping tool (which was to be used to generate “from” districts requiring candidate residency this year) — notably the one that separated the city into 206 pieces to be assembled.  But the City’s geography leaves one surprisingly little latitude to make the big changes that I had feared before I tried my hand at it myself.  Let’s look at some maps and some geographic features.

1. You might have 6 districts, but they won’t look like 6 vertical stripes

I know that the people who created this stylized map were not actually suggesting that these would be the districts — although this would be the Anaheim Hillspeoples’ dream.  They were trying to make a nice graphic that would, among other things, reinforce the number 6 — although many reformers would prefer a number like 8 or 10.  Still, the map raises a question: given four districts, how many of those stripes on the right would be combined together into one district?

The answer is: about 3-1/3 of them — about up to the crook in the bottom of that mauve piece.  All of that is Anaheim Hills — and it’s about a quarter of the city’s population.  (Remember: district size is determined by total population, not by voting population.)  So under four districts, that’s your easternmost district.  Because that section running the width of the city at its narrowest part is only one piece of the puzzle, it’s a bottleneck.  You can’t squeeze a second district through.  Even if you have six districts, that just means that one of them needs to stop east of that bottleneck (around the size of the lime, tan, and teal stripes combined) and then the next one look for other voters either past Anaheim Canyon to the west or down along the south.

Want to see how this works in action?  Here’s the City’s official designation of the city into regions from its website:

So the east part of the city is pretty well set.  What you may not have realized is: so is the west side.  The peninsula west of Stanton (that “inlet” at the bottom left) where you see the word “West” is neither easily or reasonably separated into more than one district.  You can start with that peninsula and just move east, where you’ll have a decision to make about whether to (1) go past I-5 (as you see above) as far as Brookhurst (or even Euclid), losing the section adjacent to the South district; or (2) stop at I-5, gaining a little land from central or south; or (3) stop someplace between La Palma or as far down as Lincoln and snake even further into the South section.

Of these, the second option seems pointless and the third seems downright irritating, given the longtime designations of regions of the city.  So something like the west region above — using option (1) — is what you’re likely to see.  Are there ways to jiggle things around for some slight partisan (or racial, or who knows what given that it’s Anaheim) advantage?  Yes — but the effect would be pretty marginal.  The straight lines bisected by the freeway give a large presumption to a fair cut.

Here’s a map with the areas in question shaded.  (I may revise this one to cover some points raised since I first created it — but it basically shows where the likeliest points of contention would be.  And if it doesn’t — it will once revised!)

That’s two down, two to go.

Now the question is: do we divide up South Anaheim and Central and Northwest Anaheim horizontally or vertically?  One could theoretically divide this middle swath of the city vertically along some combination of Harbor and/or Anaheim Boulevards — but that’s not just how it’s usually done.  Instead, what you see above — a cut around Ball Rd., with some likely shifts from Central to South to equalize population, is likely.  Some mischief is possible in making those cuts — but it would be hard to do anything so outrageous as to avoid pissing off the residents (and inviting a lawsuit.)

So, we’re likely to see something along the lines of this — which I’d suggest for use by the pro-districts campaign because it just looks sensible.  (I’ll come up with a six-district version too.)

There is opportunity for greater gerrymandering mischief with six districts — but probably not a huge amount.  (Unless, that is, the Masters of the Universe take that statement as a challenge to prove me wrong.  But if they do, they will be made to look stupid.)  Of the two main isolating geographic features, highly Republican eastern Anaheim Hills can’t be divided up and the highly Democratic peninsula west of Stanton almost surely won’t be.  The latter would be joined with either the area west of Magnolia or — if it goes up only as far as Lincoln — with the area just east of Stanton.  (That choice may be the most significant determination of the shape of the city’s districts — although I’m not sure what it would mean politically.)

A second Anaheim Hills anchored district could either head west to (or even partly past?) the border of the Colony or down to the south; while more competitive than the easternmost district it would still not be all that competitive.  Similarly, a second district with a foot in the West would either unite literal northwest Anaheim with nominal Northwest Anaheim (to its east), if the “both sides of Stanton” approach is taken to the westernmost district.  If the westernmost district includes everything west of Magnolia or so, except for those to blocks intruding into the east side of Stanton, then the next district would probably unite everything east of  Stanton and south of I-5 maybe as far as Harbor.

As for the rest, mapmakers would probably want to keep the Colony in one district and the Northwest Anaheim, if not already spoken for, with the portion of Anaheim north of the 91 that should just be given to Fullerton.  (Who are you kidding?  We know that that’s really Fullerton.)  Then one last district stretching from the border of Colony to the Stadium and we’re done.  But, again, if one shows any respect at all for contiguity and compactness (and for the rules set forth for how to divide up the City into blocks), the specific cuts one would make in this very Democratic part of the City probably aren’t that consequential.

The big thing I’ve heard is that some people seem to think that the maps will find a way to draw a line down La Palma Agenue, dividing Colony-dwellers Jordan Brandman from Gail Eastman so that both can continue to run.  (This seems unlikely — La Palma is just too far north — but they might find a way to try it.)  Others have suggesting that they’ll find a way to connect Lucille Kring’s house to Anaheim Hills.  It looks to me that that would have to go through Orange.  With six districts, she’s just too far away; with four districts, anything connecting South Anaheim with Anaheim Hills would leave a rump portion of eastern Anaheim that was contiguous to nothing.)

One thing looks very likely to me: everyone will want people to vote yes on six districts.  (And, again, it really should be eight.)  Reformers will want it because it lowers the cost of competition and brings representatives closer to constituents; the status quo types will want it because it maximizes the chances that more of them can get elected.  That gives reformers an advantage — “yes on districts and yes on six” is a clearer message than “no on districts but yes on six just in case there are districts.”  If you see the status quo types pushing for a no vote on the “four vs. six” question just to simplify their task, you’ll know that they’re really getting desperate.


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney and General Counsel of CATER. His anti-corruption work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, leading them to work with the Democratic Party of Orange County Chair and other co-conspirators (who had long detested the internal oversight his presence provided) to remove him from the position of DPOC North Vice Chair of in violation of party rules and any semblance of due process. He also runs for office sometimes. Unless otherwise specifically stated, none of his writings prior to that lawless putsch ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Beautiful Bountiful Brea, but while he may brag about it he generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for candidates including Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and (except where noted) without compensation.