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What is redistricting? How is it different from last time?

Every ten years, after receiving an updated U.S. Census count, local jurisdictions reestablish district boundaries. The City of Sacramento must reestablish city council district boundaries, creating council districts that are balanced in population and in accordance with local, state, and federal laws that govern the redistricting process.

In 2020 an independent redistricting commission made up entirely of community members will be formed to set those city council district boundaries in a process that is free from special interests, politics and political influence. The commission, approved by the voters of the City of Sacramento in 2016, will have 13 commissioners. Eight of the commissioners – one from each existing council district – will be selected from a pool of qualified applicants by the Sacramento Ethics Commission. Then those eight persons will then select the remaining five commissioners, plus two alternates. This commission has exclusive authority to redraw council district boundaries, ensuring that the process is powered by the people of Sacramento.

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Where can I see more information regarding redistricting?

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What does “substantially equal” mean?

The standard for reapportionment of congressional districts is that such districts must be equal in population “as nearly as is practicable,” with the phrase “as nearly as is practicable” defined to mean “a good faith effort to achieve precise mathematical equality.” However, for local redistricting plans, some divergence from the equal population rule is constitutionally permissible if the disparity is caused by legitimate considerations incidental to the effectuation of a rational state policy. Relatively minor deviations from mathematical equality in state or local electoral districts are constitutionally permissible as long as there is “substantial equality” in population between districts. While there is no absolute bright line rule regarding the permissible amount of population deviation, a total deviation below 10% presumably meets “substantial equality” standard. Total deviation is measured between the highest population district and the lowest population district. Watch Here.

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When will mapping software be available?

July 2021 - Redistricting mapping application with practice data available to the public.
September 30th, 2021 – 2020 Census redistricting data is scheduled to be released and will be loaded into the mapping application for the public to redraw districts.

Any updates to the timeline will be posted on the city’s redistricting homepage:

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What is a community of interest?

A community of interest is a contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation. City Charter § 175 (a)(2). Watch Here.

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What is the Voting Rights Act?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (the VRA) is federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Section 2 of the VRA prohibits electoral practices that are “not equally open to participation by the members of a [racial, color, or language minority] in that its members have fewer opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” Thus, the VRA can be violated by either intentional discrimination in the drawing of district lines or by a facially neutral redistricting plan that has the effect of diluting minority votes. Watch Here.

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What is “cracking” and “packing?”

“Cracking” is the splitting of a geographically compact minority population among two or more districts, thereby reducing the group’s ability to elect a representative in any district. “Packing” is the dilution of minority group voting strength by improperly placing more minority voters into a district than is necessary to elect a representative of their choice. Watch Here.

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What are the redistricting requirements and criteria?

The commission shall draw its final map so that:

  • Council districts are substantially equal in population;
  • The final map complies with the U.S. Constitution; the Federal Voting Rights Act, commencing at 42 U.S.C. section 1972; the California Constitution; and any other requirement of federal or state law applicable to charter cities; and
  • Each council district is geographically contiguous.

In addition, the commission shall consider the following criteria when drawing the final map, in order of priority:

  1. Existing neighborhoods and community boundaries;
  2. Communities of interest. A community of interest is a contiguous population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation;
  3. Integrity and compactness of territory;
  4. Geography and topography;
  5. Natural and artificial barriers and boundaries;
  6. Preservation of population cores that have consistently been associated with each council district; and
  7. Other commission-adopted criteria that do not conflict with the other requirements and criteria listed in this section or with state or federal law.

The commission shall not consider place of residence of any individual, including any incumbent or political candidate, in the creation of a map.

The commission shall number each council district such that, for as many residents as possible, the number of the council district they reside in remains the same.

Sacramento City Charter Article. (City of Sacramento Charter § 175). Watch Here.

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What is a Property Based Improvement District (PBID)?

A PBID is a district which properties in a defined area elect to pay an assessment to fund specific service programs within a geographical area for a set period of time. In the City of Sacramento PBIDs were created as a financing mechanism where property owners enter into a special assessment district to improve their commercial districts. Here is a listing of Sacramento-based PBIDs.

More PBID information

View Map

View PBID data on City's Open Data Portal

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What is a business district?

A business district is defined as the part of a city or town where there are many businesses.

What school districts are there in the City of Sacramento?

There are several K-12 public schools systems that serve the City of Sacramento and the region.

  • Elk Grove USD (a portion in the city)
  • Folsom-Cordova USD. (not in the city)
  • Natomas USD (a portion in the city)
  • Robla USD (a portion in the city)
  • Sacramento City USD (most in the city, a small portion outside the city)
  • San Juan USD (a small portion in the city)
  • Twin Rivers USD (a portion in the city)

View School District data on the County of Sacramento’s Open Data Portal

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What are community plan areas and how does this tie into redistricting?

Community Plan Areas are a tool of the City’s General Plan that help guide land use policy decisions within the identified areas of the City. Community Plan Areas do not have a direct correlation to redistricting efforts, but can generally define and group neighborhoods, guide land use policy, and further community goals within their boundaries. While the Community Plans and their boundaries can be referenced in relation to community identities, they are primarily a Planning and land use tool.
More Info

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What are Logical Versus Illogical Boundaries?

Logical boundaries would describe a Council District border that minimizes zig-zags, jogs, and panhandles, or those that split neighborhoods that traditionally have been seen as whole or a single place in the past. While the redistricting process seeks to limit these uncommon occurrences, population shifts within the City’s boundaries may require changes that could be seen as controversial to some in the community. The SIRC with assistance from staff will take any and all consideration from the community to address concerns related to any proposed boundaries potentially deemed as illogical.

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How do physical features in my community affect Council District boundaries?

Where practical, Council districts should follow natural topographic & geographic features. This can be especially important where and when these features define a community and/or restrict access between communities. Examples in Sacramento might include the American River, major drainageways (e.g., NEMDC), and railways and freeways with limited permeability (i.e., limited crossings). In other areas of California, valleys and ridges more clearly define communities, but Sacramento’s mostly flat topography makes similar situations less relevant.

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Besides physical features, what other factors play an important role in defining Council District boundaries?

Three other considerations important in considering redrawing boundaries are cohesiveness, continuity, and compactness. Cohesiveness generally refers to geographically and culturally cohesive neighborhoods and keeping neighborhoods with their own identity within the same district.

Continuity (A.K.A. “contiguity”) refers to the requirement of districts being fully contiguous, including districts that span water, but are joined by bridges or ferry routes. Contiguity refers to the appearance of a district and is simple to evaluate. A district is contiguous if all of the lines that create it are connected. A district consisting of two or more unconnected areas is not contiguous. In rare circumstances, the degree to which all districts in a particular map are contiguous can be limited by natural boundaries.

Compactness has been defined in The Report and Recommendations of Special Masters on Reapportionment (1992) as a functional relationship – rather than a geometric shape. “A district would not be sufficiently compact if it was so spread out that there was no sense of community, that is, if its members and its representatives could not effectively and efficiently stay in touch with each other; or if it was so convoluted that there was no sense of community, that is, if its members and its representative could not easily tell who actually lived in the district. Because compactness is a functional concept, the number and kinds of factors a court should consider may vary with each case, depending on the local geographical, political, and socio-economic characteristics of the jurisdiction being sued.”

Compactness does not refer to geometric shapes but rather the ability of citizens to relate to each other and their representatives and to the ability of representatives to relate effectively to their constituency. Further, it speaks to relationships that are facilitated by shared interests and by membership in a political community, including a county or city. (Wilson v Eu (1992) 1Cal. 4th 707,719)One of the "traditional" redistricting principles, low compactness is considered to be a sign of potential gerrymandering by courts, state law and the academic literature.

References for Compactness:

  • Redistricting the Nation
  • Barabas & Jerit, "Redistricting Principles and Racial Representation," State and Politics Quarterly¸4 (4), 2004, pp. 415-435.Altman, "Is Automation the Answer? - The Computational
  • Complexity of Automated Redistricting," Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal 23 (1), pp. 81-142, 1997.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures

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How were homeless counted in the US Census?

The Census Bureau has the following information from their 2020 Census on homeless population counts: View Report

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What is a Community Planning Area?

Community plans include specific policies for different communities within Sacramento. These plans help to guide investment and development decisions of both the city, property owners, and developers. These are the community planning areas in the City of Sacramento.

More Community Planning information

View Community Plan Area boundaries data on the city’s Open Data page

Community Plan Area is included as a reference layer in the redistricting mapping application.

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