District elections are a vote away for Anaheim residents.
The City Council meets Tuesday night at 5:30 p.m. to give its final blessing to a map that splits Anaheim into six neighborhood districts and a new plan that requires council candidates to live and be voted into office by the people who live in that district.
It’s been nearly three years since a state voting rights lawsuit was filed against the city of Anaheim by a group of Latino residents who felt minorities couldn’t elect a candidate of their choice to City Hall.
At the time, all the City Council members lived in the more affluent neighborhood of Anaheim Hills.
That’s changed and much more: the city settled the lawsuit after some unsuccessful push back; that led an election where Anaheim voters decided they wanted to move to a district-based election system; and over the last six months, the community and an independent committee met to come up with a single map that would be used in future elections.
According to the redistricting plan, four of the new districts will be up for election in 2016. The remaining two will go up in 2018. The mayor continues to be elected at-large or citywide.
At the last redistricting meeting in November, about a dozen or more people recounted the legwork and canvasing.
“Over 150 youth walked every single week along with faith members … week by week to make sure that people were informed about the maps,” said Minerva Gomez of Orange County Congregation Community Organization.
It was Anaheim’s happily-ever-after. The City Council gave the okay to “The People’s Map” (named by the community because organizing groups hand a big hand in drawing it up).
The People’s Map has one Latino majority district where more than half of the residents living in that area are citizen-voting age Latinos. The map also has two districts where Latinos are pluralities, meaning they make up nearly half but not quite.
Theoretically, the Latino communities feel like if they combine organizing efforts with other minority groups such as the Asian and Arabic communities in Anaheim, they could elect a candidate of their choice in all three districts giving them half of the seats at the dias.
But in November, the City Council decided that only the two Latino plurality districts would be up for the November 2016 elections and the majority district would have to wait till 2018.
“The most equitable plan to ensure that every single district has a sitting council member/resident representing them is (districts) 1, 2, 4, and 5 and that is what I am comfortable with,” said Anaheim Council Member Jordan Brandman at the last redistricting meeting in November.
What he means is, the two council members that won’t be up for election until 2018 happen to live in those districts, so – even though they were elected at-large – Brandman believes the council members can still represent those remaining districts until 2018.
Latino voters have not been happy with the City Council’s decision to keep the majority district out of the redistricting plan for two years. They will get another chance Tuesday night to convince city leaders to change their minds.