SCV chamber hears about redistricting basics

Peter Warda, vice president of Evolve Business Strategies, which represents the SCV Chamber of Commerce, top, introduces 2020 Citizens Redistricting Commissioner Isra Ahmad during a redistricting basics webinar hosted by the Chamber last week.

Members of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted Isra Ahmad, a member of the California 2020 California Citizens Redistricting Commission, on Wednesday for a presentation on redistricting basics.  

“These maps are our maps. They’re Californian people’s maps. They don’t belong to the Legislature. They don’t belong to elected officials. They belong to the people of California. So, I encourage the people to voice their input,” Ahmad said at the webinar. 

Ahmad is one of 14 commissioners tasked with “drawing new boundaries that determine which Californians are represented by each electoral district,” she said. This year marks the second time an independent citizens’ commission has redrawn political boundaries in California. 

The commission, which includes five Republicans, five Democrats and four Californians without a party preference, will draw lines for the state Senate and Assembly districts, California’s congressional districts and state Board of Equalization districts. 

“The easiest part of this process for me is that there are no closed doors. I don’t have to remember what I can and cannot share because everything is something that I should be sharing with Californians,” said Ahmad, speaking to the process’s transparency. 

Ahmad shared a slide reflecting the commission’s timeline during her presentation. 

“This slide changes very frequently. We are trying our best to work with the delays that have been caused by COVID-19 in the delivery of the Census data,” she said. 

The commission’s current timeline shows U.S. Census data expected to the commission sometime between Sept. 30 and Oct. 31 this year. The data shows commissioners how communities have changed since the last census was conducted 10 years ago. 

In October, the commission hopes to start public input meetings and line drawing sessions with the plan of releasing draft maps in November or December. The ultimate goal is to deliver the final maps to the Secretary of State no later than February 2022. 

“Any delay after July 31 in the state receiving the census data means that the commission’s final maps would be due after Dec. 15, which is what was ruled in a California Supreme Court ruling,” said Ahmad. “Currently, we are working with the Legislature and other stakeholders to minimize the impact of the delay on the 2022 elections.” 

The commission is accepting public input online through, by email at [email protected], over the phone at 916-323-0323 and by mail at 721 Capitol Mall, Suite 260, Sacramento, CA 95814. 

“Your input in this process is essential to help commissioners understand where your community starts,” Ahmad said. “Redistricting in California is one of the few civic activities that any Californian can provide input in regarding their community.” 

Public input will help the commission identify what it calls “communities of interest,” which Ahmad said are “key building blocks of districts.” 

“California’s communities of interest are defined as a concentrated population, which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for the purposes of its effective and fair representation,” she said. “This process is very reliant on people. It’s reliant on people coming to us and telling us where their communities are.” 

Peter Warda, vice president of Evolve Business Strategies, which represents the SCV Chamber, invited Ahmad to call attention to Santa Clarita Valley as a community of interest. 

“Because (SCV) continues to grow and diversify, it comes into play when the lines are redrawn,” he told The Signal. 

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