By Caroline Griffith
Article One of the United States Constitution establishes the United States House of Representatives and apportions Representatives to each state based on population, with the stipulation that the district lines must be redrawn every ten years, when the U.S. Census is done. The 2020 Census, though impacted greatly by the pandemic, has been finalized and the first results were released in April of 2021, showing where and how populations have changed. For the first time in a century, California will be losing a congressional seat, meaning this year’s redistricting process will potentially have a big impact on the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, Mendocino and Marin Counties and parts of Sonoma County.
Unlike many other states in which the legislature draws district boundaries, California’s redistricting is done by a non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of five Republicans, five Democrats, and four people not affiliated with either of those two parties. The Commission will hold public meetings, accept public comments, and then, based on public feedback, redraw the lines for the House of Representatives districts, 40 Senate districts, 80 Assembly districts, and four Board of Equalization districts. Though the Commission has until December of 2021 to finalize these maps, the window for public comment is narrow with only one public meeting scheduled for the North Coast on July 1. But don’t worry: you have other ways to make your voice heard. More on that below.
One of the criteria for redistricting that is laid out in the California Constitution is that districts should be comprised of a specific “community of interest.” This is defined as, “a population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.” When commenting to the commission, it’s important to tell them the economic and social interests that bind your community together, why your community should be kept together for fair and effective representation, where your community is located and what nearby areas you do and do not want to be grouped with.
There are a number of ways that the current District 2 represents a community of interest. Trinity, Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino County all have extensive public lands that benefit from being represented by the same congressperson. The district is also comprised of areas that have been heavily impacted by the timber industry, but the economy has now shifted to wine, cannabis growing and outdoor recreation. Our climate and environment have helped to shape the economies of the area, whether it is wood, wine, or weed, and we have developed a similar culture that prioritizes a clean, healthy environment. If we look at it from the perspective of watersheds, Trinity County is home to headwaters that flow outward to the coast. And the coast from Marin to the Oregon border shares a similar climate which shapes the species (including humans) that call it home.
As it states on Citizens Redistricting Commissions website, “One of the greatest powers that the people of California have is to elect their own representatives to conduct the business of their government.” How these Congressional lines are redrawn can have a huge impact on conservation efforts in our bioregion. Whether it is addressing sea level rise or the threat of a warming climate on our economies, the environmental challenges of the present and future will best be met by a united North Coast.
To make public comment to the Commission:
Using the Draw My CA Community tool at: Drawmycacommunity.org.
Writing to the Commission: 721 Capitol Mall, Suite 260, Sacramento, CA 95814.