New State Voting Cards Create Latino Majority Congress District in San Diego
New voting cards unanimously approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission include a predominantly Latino congressional district in San Diego, helping to gain Latino political weight statewide.
The new South San Diego neighborhood encompasses Imperial Beach, National City, Chula Vista and stretches east to Otay Mesa. About 51% of its voting-age citizens are Latino, making it one of the 16 districts in the state with a Latin American majority.
âFor me, the biggest change has been having a district (voting rights law) that is entirely within San Diego County,â said District Commissioner Patricia Sinay, of Encinitas, referring to the federal law which obliges political districts to preserve the voting power of minorities. “This reflects the growth of our state of the Latino community, but also simply the diversity of our state.”
The final congressional map of San Diego also included the northern and southern coastal districts, a central district of San Diego, and an eastern county district. Despite the changes to the territory of each zone, they roughly correspond to existing congressional districts, said Thad Kousser, professor of political science at UC San Diego.
âAfter a fall from the redistribution chaos and two election cycles where San Diego was a national political battleground, we look to a fairly calm year 2022, where every current incumbent could likely find a winnable district in the region,â a- he declared.
For example, Kousser said, the East County district roughly matches the current 50th congressional district, held by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Bonsall.
Under the new map, it becomes more conservative, based on an analysis of the voting patterns of residents within its boundaries, Kousser said. Previous drafts showed a potential north-south divide in the Eastern District, which could have complicated Issa’s re-election prospects, Kousser said in November.
The 49th District, encompassing the north coast of San Diego and parts of southern Orange County, is losing part of its southernmost area.
Kousser said this makes the district slightly more conservative, but still winnable for incumbent Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano. This is a favorable setup for the outgoing congressman compared to earlier versions of the maps that rearranged the district in a more meaningful way, he said.
“Mike Levin’s district is probably a Democrat,” according to the analysis of voting trends, Kousser said. “Not strong, but not that competitive.”
San Diego Democratic Party President Will Rodriguez-Kennedy has agreed that the new limits make the chances of a dramatic upset less likely in next year’s midterm election.
âI don’t think it affects anything,â he said. “I expect the same five Representatives to always have a seat, and there may not be much contention.”
While San Diego’s new districts provide a relatively stable foundation for current members of Congress, this was not part of the committee’s goal. Although commissioners have detailed rules for drawing the lines, tenure was not a factor they could consider, Sinay said.
The Redistribution Commission is an independent body convened to draw the boundaries of California state and federal legislative seats, including the House of Representatives, the State Senate and Assembly, and the State Equalization Board .
By law, states must pass new voting limits every 10 years after the U.S. census, to accommodate changing demographics.
The constituencies for each type of public service must have an almost equal number of voters. They must also be contiguous and compact and preserve local jurisdictions and communities of interest.
This year, that task was complicated by the loss of a seat in Congress by California, after the state’s population growth slowed relative to other parts of the country.
This caused consternation among some elected officials and political organizers, who wondered which region would pull the small stick. A seat of Congress near Los Angeles has gone missing this time around.
Although San Diego retained five seats in Congress, Rodriguez-Kennedy said he felt San Diego was being treated as an afterthought compared to Los Angeles.
âIt feels like our area is constantly getting the crust of LA,â he said. âThey spend so much time in LA and when they come to our house they say, ‘Well, here’s what we have left. This is what they get. It’s kinda frustrating because we’re one so large region.
Rodriguez-Kennedy said the complex process, conducted without a clear roadmap by commissioners with no political backgrounds, was infuriating to some observers.
âWhile congressional districts are doing well, there are people who are complaining up and down the state willy-nilly about the process, the lack of compactness of the districts, and the arbitrary nature with which these maps have. been drawn, âhe said. âIt just seems like this process was botched at best, but that’s how it is; democracy is often botched.
Sinay acknowledged that Commissioners learned on the job, but said that was to be expected.
“This is a commission to redistribute citizens, so it is made up of 14 people who did it for the first time, with different levels of lived experience” she said.
The commissioners received some 37,000 comments from the public, she said, and worked on the cards for about 16 months, meeting daily for the past few weeks to meet their deadlines.
“It’s a long process, it’s complicated, but it’s democracy in action,” she said.
The committee has several additional meetings and must submit its cards to the secretary of state’s office by December 27. Candidates for the June primary elections must apply before mid-March.