With the 2010 census numbers in, redistricting in Berkeley is about to begin, and residents of the city are being asked to submit proposals. Recently, the city council moved back the proposal deadline from mid-August to Sept. 16 in order to give students more time to have their voices heard; however, many believe this still does not give students enough time to submit a proposal for a “pro-student” district.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman has been working with Councilmember Gordon Wozniak to push back the date to Nov. 1, to make sure that students have as much time as possible to weigh in on the redistricting process.
However, it is absolutely critical that the city maintains the current deadline so that redistricting is completed in time for the 2012 elections. If the deadline is pushed back any further, redistricting will not be complete until 2013, and some 4,000 Berkeley citizens will be disenfranchised, many of who are students.
Districts that are set to lose overall numbers are districts 4, 7 and 8 — all areas heavily populated by students. In 2012, none of the council members in these districts will be up for reelection. Because of redistricting, around 4,000 people will have to be moved out of these districts, into districts where council members are up for reelection.
But, if redistricting does not happen by the 2012 election, the newly added residents will not be voting for a new council member. Then, after redistricting is finished in 2013, they will be moved into a new district. The council person representing them in their new district will be someone elected in 2012 whom they did not get the chance to vote either for or against. They will have to wait until 2016 to vote for a city council member. Far from increasing student voice, this proposal to push back the deadline to November will silence thousands of voices in the 2012 elections; many of these voices are those of students.
In 1986, the Berkeley voters established the districts, and according to the City Charter, Article 5, Section 9: “Any such redistricting shall preserve, to the extent possible, the Council districts originally established herein.” What this means is that it is not legal for the council to move more people out of a district than necessary to comply with the new census numbers.
Regardless of a desire to create a district with a “student supermajority,” the city map will look largely the same.
As it stands, students are spread between districts 4, 6, 7 and 8, so to create a district with a student supermajority the city map will need to be drastically redrawn. While Freeman ran on a platform of creating a student supermajority district, the only way to legally accomplish this is through a voter referendum.
I applaud Freeman’s platform to create an entirely student district because he is right that we have not had a student on the city council in over two decades. I also admire his motivations to increase student involvement in this process; however, I urge him to work within the reality of the situation.
It is completely feasible to submit a redistricting proposal by the Sept. 16 deadline that works within current laws to create the most pro-student districts possible for the 2012 election.
Regardless of the proposal that is submitted, by law the new districts will look largely the same as they do now. By sticking to the deadline we can be sure that student voices are still heard in the process, and that every voice is heard in 2012.
The office of the EAVP can then focus their attention on drafting and pushing for a ballot measure to be voted on in 2012 — a referendum that will allow us to create a truly student supermajority district.
Even if the City completes redistricting for 2012, if the people vote to create a student district, this vote will supersede anything created by the city council. If this presumed ballot measure ends up failing, then at least we can be sure that every student vote is still counted in 2012. If the deadline is pushed back and a proposed ballot measure ends up failing, then student voices will be doubly silenced.
Andrew Albright is an ASUC Senator for the 2011-2012 year.