By Matthew Rodriguez
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
Last week, community organizations held a workshop to further educate residents on Pasadena’s upcoming redistricting.
The virtual meeting was organized by several organizations, such as the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Pasadena Chapter of the NAACP, and League of Women Voters, and was hosted by the First AME Church. The city hosted similar workshops from June to August this year. The workshops are meant to educate and draw public input into how the city will draw the district borders.
“Your voice, your opinion, your information and your input are vital,” said Patrice Marshall McKenzie, who is part of the 12-member task force appointed to oversee the redistricting process.
Cities with districts are mandated to redraw their borders after each census to ensure they have an even share of the population. For the past 40 years, Pasadena has appointed a task force following every decennial census to research and recommend a redistricting plan.
Because of the pandemic, each step’s deadlines were extended except for the final deadline for submission. The city has until Dec. 15 to adopt a new map.
“The purpose of redistricting is to analyze changes in population counts after the 2020 census,” Councilmember John Kennedy said. “All elected bodies at every level of government whose members are elected from districts are legally required to undergo a redistricting process.”
The task force relies heavily on public input to ensure equal and correct representation and that communities of interest are not broken apart. Communities of interest are populations that share common social and economic interests. By law, these clusters must be placed in the same district. Examples are commercial or historic and neighborhood associations. Communities of interest do not include affiliations to any certain political party.
“It’s really about neighborhoods,” Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky said. “It’s really about the community members who have shared social and common interests that want to be represented in a single district.”
Residents can draw what they believe to be a community of interest through maps provided by the city or on its redistricting dashboard map tool.
Jomsky advised that residents use geographic boundaries such as highways, major roads and other landmarks to help determine their community of interest.
The city’s goal is to get as close to the ideal population for each district as possible. The ideal population is determined by taking the total population and dividing it by the total number of districts. In Pasadena’s case the ideal population would be 19,814. According to census data, only district seven is close with 19,901. Districts one, two, three and five are below, with district five the least populated with 18,677. Districts four and six are above the ideal population, with district six being the most populated with 22,134 residents.
The task force also has the difficult task of redrawing the districts while following federal laws to avoid gerrymandering and diluting ethnic voting populations.
“We want to make sure that the community has access to this process and feels (included),” Jomsky said. “Without the community, we won’t be able to get a map that everyone can build consensus around and support.”
The next community meeting is 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, with the redistricting task force meeting following at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18.