What is Redistricting?
Redistricting is the process by which we draw lines around electoral districts, determining who
votes in each district for city council and school board representatives. In 2014, Oakland voters approved a ballot measure placing future redistricting processes in the hands of a citizen commission rather than elected officials. 2021-22 was the first time the law was implemented allowing a citizens’ commission to redraw the district lines.
Why do we redistrict?
Redistricting occurs every 10 years to account for changes revealed by census data. District lines are redrawn to ensure equal numbers of residents in each district.
Oakland’s population grew by 50,000 over the past decade, with increases to the city’s Hispanic, white, and Asian populations, while the Black population shrank, according to Census Bureau data released last week.
Oakland now has a total population of 440,646, up 12.8% from the 2010 total of 390,724. The city is 28% Hispanic (up from 25% a decade ago), 27% white (up from 25%), 20% Black (down from 27%), and 15% Asian (down from 16%), the census data shows. (The number of Asian people living in Oakland grew by 7.3%, even though their percentage of the total population fell slightly.)
The city’s overall gains are due largely to growth in the Hispanic and white populations, which increased by 28% and 18.6% respectively. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of Hispanic people living in Oakland jumped by 27,775, from 99,068 to 126,843.
How Has the local League been involved?
The League supports independent redistricting commissions at national, state and local levels. Oakland’s League joined these efforts and participated in the writing of Oakland’s 2014 ballot measure. In the run up to the recent redistricting effort, the League spoke up for adequate funding to support the first citizens commission.
Since late 2020 when the commission was formed, the League has attended meetings and advocated on how to best manage the process when it seemed the legislation’s original intent was not being honored or when problems emerged.
We will continue to follow the process through analysis of the commissioners’ own report on how this first citizen-led effort transpired. We will write our own report informed by our observations in Oakland but also by League wide reflections at the state level. The goal is to keep fine tuning the process so that it improves by the next round following the 2030 census. In particular, we will seek clearer guidelines for commissioners regarding how Oakland assets such as Lake Merritt, the Coliseum, the airport, and the Port Of Oakland should be addressed in redistricting.
Redistricting efforts in 2021-22 offer an example of how the League promotes citizen engagement to improve the transparency, effectiveness and responsiveness of local government while providing a trusted source of information for the public. This League work continues under the guidance of the LWVO Action Committee. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Read more here:
What the League of Women Voters is Doing About Getting Money Out of Politics
“In a democracy, politicians are expected to represent each person equally, regardless of their financial status. Money in politics complicates this system. When politicians receive large financial contributions from organizations, corporations, campaigns, or individuals, they are inclined to be more responsive to their needs. This puts the voices of everyday Americans at a disadvantage.”
-- League of Women Voters US
What solutions are emerging to the money-in-politics dilemma?
Several models for financing campaigns through small donors are emerging nationwide and proving successful. They offer candidates a way to mount viable campaigns even when they are unconnected to large contributors or when they prefer to seek support from multiple small contributors who represent their future constituents. The League of Women Voters of Oakland will continue to advocate for local solutions of this important movement.
“There can be no doubt that small donors — of both major parties, of all ideologies, from all over the country — can play a new, positive role in our politics. Citizens must be engaged as an alternative source of funding to the role being played by influence-seeking donors.”
--Adam Skaggs & Fred Wertheimer, Brennan Center for Justice
What’s Currently In Effect in Oakland:
In 2010, Oakland attempted to reduce the influence of large contributors with passage of the Limited Public Finance Act of Oakland. Yet recent research from MapLight has revealed that large donors, both those local to Oakland and “outside” donors, continue to provide the majority of funding for local candidates running for city and school board offices.
The Public Ethics Commission has issued its own report citing the failure of the 2010 law to achieve the objective of ensuring that candidates unconnected to significant funding could use public money to successfully run for office.
What Actions Are Being Discussed:
A coalition of local good government and community organizations, including the local League, are conducting educational outreach to inform Oakland residents of the new models for small donor financing and to discuss implementing such a program locally. We will take a look at how public financing programs like Seattle’s Democracy Dollars, would incentivize local candidates to pursue Oakland voters rather than high-dollar donors.
To stay informed on this crucial issue, see LWVO’s future newsletters.