Students discuss plans to create super-majority district

At a meeting Tuesday night hosted by the Berkeley Student District Campaign to discuss plans to create a student super-majority district, attendees vocalized concerns regarding gerrymandering, kicking incumbent council members out of their seats and involving students in city politics as a whole.

In an attempt to spark student interest and garner feedback, ASUC External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman, ASUC Senator Shahryar Abbasi and ASUC Redistricting Director Michael Manset discussed two possible proposals to be submitted to the Berkeley City Council by  the Sept. 30 deadline.

“Our objective is to get a student on the city council,” Freeman said at the meeting. “Students make up about a quarter of the city’s population, and they are a lot of the driving forces that make the city of Berkeley so great.”

Abbasi explained that the process should not be viewed as gerrymandering, as it would, in fact, make sure that a “community of interest” is represented effectively pursuing the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The point of what we’re trying to do is not to get rid of a council member,” Freeman said. “That might move the lines in a way where something like that might happen, but that not is our intent.”

The proposals, outlined by Manset at the meeting, redraw some of the district boundaries — first implemented in 1986 — to concentrate the student population in two districts, in each of which students would make up at least 76 percent of the constituent base.

“The student population is already so diluted that it hardly makes a difference,” said Manset. “We’re spread all over the place — our voices aren’t being as heard as much as they ought to be.”

Freeman added that his office will work to encourage students to participate in City Council affairs and elections with the same vigor that goes into ASUC elections.

In July, the city began accepting redistricting proposals for the purpose of rearranging electoral district boundaries to preserve equal population distribution among its eight districts, though council voted to extend the original Sept. 16. deadline to Sept. 30.

Sarah Mohamed is the lead city government reporter.