Redistricting for a Broad and Diverse Community




.We Draw the Lines logo

California voters recently passed Propositions 11 and 20 to remove the ability of the legislature to draw boundaries that guarantees a district for an incumbent or for a party.  A 14-person Citizen’s Redistricting Commission (CRC) was created.  Originally over 35,000 candidates applied, including me, and I was part of the 4,600 pool of candidates from which they further reviewed and selected the 14 members.

The CRC will draw the maps for:

  • 53 Congressional Districts (target population 703K)
  • 40 State Senate Districts (931K)
  • 80 State Assembly Districts (466K)
  • 4 Board of Equalization Districts (9.3 million)

The CRC is obtaining input for redrawing district lines by August 15, 2011 and they give equal weight to speakers or letter writers.  The CRC must consider specific criteria in order of priority.  A main element is the Community of Interest (COI) which is a geographically connected population which shares common SOCIAL and ECONOMIC interests.

Unfortunately, I think the CRC will be swayed and use Ethnic or Racial groupings, but I think the COI should be defined as a lot broader and more diverse one, rather than using Ethnic politics.  I know that in the long-run this should result in greater representation and greater benefit for the COI.

I use myself or my family as an example.

1)     I have lived throughout California.

2)    I live in the NW corner of Santa Ana (predominantly Latino and which includes a large number of Vietnamese and other groups), making the community broad and diverse.

3)    I serve on the Board of our HOA which is very ethnically diverse.

4)    For many years, I have volunteered with various organizations where the membership and ideas is diverse and where I do not even know the political/partisan leanings of our members, and as we are focused on serving a diverse community, we are successful.

5)    My own family is a rainbow.  We literally have all colors (White, Brown, Black), several religions (primarily Christian and Jew, Muslim, Buddhist); and several nationalities and languages.

6)    I served 8 years in the US Marine Corps, and 3 in the CA National Guard.  As a nation, we do just fine because our US military is very diverse and integrated and because we are focused on performance and not on our racial or ethnic make-up.

7)    Also as the Commander of a veterans organization, I know we succeed because we advocate for all veterans.

Sometimes Breaking-up is hard, but necessary!

It seems, I am on the minority on this, but I spoke Friday May 6th, and asked the CRC to consider drawing the Congressional Districts to be very diverse and competitive.

For example Santa Ana and Anaheim are in essence segregated into a Latino district without necessarily translating into better representation, and in fact also excluding them from contributing more to, or enjoying the greater economic success of Orange County.

Thus, I proposed that Santa Ana and Anaheim NOT be included in the same district for congressional purposes.

  • Since Santa Ana and Anaheim make up approximately half of a congressional district each, by separating them, this will make the resulting districts more competitive and in essence more responsive to a more diverse community;
  • the candidates will have to appeal to a broader and diverse community by focusing on the issues the COI values (job creation; economic growth, education, energy security, fiscal stability etc); and
  • not allow them to “win” by focusing on ethnicity, nor allow them to feel “entitled” to “their” seat, while they ignore other constituents or the issues.

Spirit of Redistricting & our Principles

The CRC was created in the spirit of allowing the citizens to break up the stranglehold that politicians have created by playing ethnic, racial or partisan politics, and I offer my comments in that spirit and to make the districts issues focused, more responsive and accountable to the larger community.

From experience, I know that our broad diversity within a larger community is our strength.  So let’s not let the CRC fall trap to ethnic politics.

My view might be a contrarian one, but it is not contrary to our American principle of E Pluribus Unum Out of Many, One!

Francisco “Paco” Barragan

(My opinions only and not those of any group.)

About Francisco Barragan