Oakland Local

Current Oakland City Council districts based on 2003 Census data 

by Lanese Martin, Oakland Rising

This fall, Oaklanders may not be heading to the polls to vote, but the City Council will be making an important decision that will impact our future elections. This fall marks three years since the 2010 Census, and based on Oakland’s City Charter, it’s time for redistricting our City Council and School Board districts.

District lines are literally the building blocks of local government and democracy. How district lines are drawn reflects and shapes how communities are defined, how political power is distributed, and how city services are planned and delivered.

According to Fairvote.org, redistricting is the “process of redrawing the districts within a jurisdiction to reflect the results of the reapportioning process as well as the results of the Census; for example, congressional district boundaries may be changed to account for population shifts within a state.”

It might seem a little wonky, but Oakland’s redistricting matters. The following is Oakland Rising’s effort to explain redistricting in clear language and provide information about how to have your voice heard in the process.

Relationship between redistricting and the Voting Rights Act

The federal Voting Rights Act protects “one person, one vote” and the rights of all residents to equal political representation, basically meaning that every person’s vote counts equally. Redistricting is critical to maintaining “one person, one vote” because it provides an opportunity to redraw political boundaries to ensure each district has the same number of people–and that some district’s votes won’t be weighed more heavily than others. In comparison to 2003, some of Oakland’s City Council districts have more residents and some have fewer, so we need to revise the maps to make them all the same size in terms of population.

Oakland’s redistricting process

For the last 4 months, Oakland has been rushing to put in place a public process that engages voters to have a say in what the new City Council and School Board districts will look like. There have already been 3 public meetings held in different neighborhoods in Oakland to make sure residents know that redistricting is happening and to solicit some input about what the process should be.

The battle isn’t over, and there is something that you can do to make sure that your voice is heard. Currently, the City is accepting maps proposed by any community member. You can find the map-making link here and develop a map that you think best represents how Oakland’s Council districts should be drawn.

You can also attend one of the upcoming meetings in your district to make sure that your voice is on the record about redistricting. You can find the city’s schedule here.

Oaklanders value our differences in language and culture. We expect our redistricting process to respect all of our communities and to build our collective political power to ensure that we have an Oakland for everyone. That’s why Oakland Rising is partnering with Urban Strategies Council, ACCE, League of Women Voters and concerned residents to engage Oaklanders in learning more about Voting Rights, redistricting, and one person, one vote. Our coalition is honored to have received funding from the James Irvine Foundation to support this work.

You can learn more at www.oaklandvotes.org or by following #OaklandVotes on Twitter.

One thought on “Oakland’s redistricting matters (Community Voices)

  1. There are three things I think redistricting has to address:

    1) The districts need to be more socioeconomically homogenous. The way it is now, each Councilmember panders to the more affluent parts of their district. If we want poor people’s issues addressed at Council, we need poor area Councilmembers. Now, the rich have 8.

    2) “One person, one vote” is somewhat meaningless in a city like Oakland, where there are significant numbers of non-citizen residents. How does Oaklandrising suggest to deal with this?

    3) Related is the question of residents, eligible voters and actual voters. The fact is, a District 5 voter has far more influence on the City Council than a District 1 voter, because so few people vote in District 5. This is not fair.

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