Commentary: What Will Be the Impact of District Elections?

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I think it is a reasonable question – to ask why the College Republicans have pushed for district elections.  Given that they have not come forward to explain their thinking, we can only speculate.

At the same time, I think we’ve learned quite a bit about the law and a bit about our city.  I am a bit disappointed that we keep seeing statements like this one: “But  the problem is that the ethnic minorities are evenly spread throughout all the districts so this goal will not be achieved.”

The data does not bear out that analysis.

First of all, even within the voter registration data, there is a rather significant difference between the least minority precinct, which has about 88 percent white voters, to the most diverse one, which has less than 60 percent white voters.

What we don’t have a great handle on, empirically at least, is whether there are clusters of precincts together that could form a district, and anecdotally I believe there are – I have suggested around E. 8th and Pole Line and to extend it over the overpass to include areas around Montgomery.  But I have not been able to map that out.

But the other point of interest that I learned looking at the data is that Latinos and Asians are markedly underrepresented in the voter data as compared to the census data.

Data from the 2010 census shows that Davis was at that time about 65 percent white.  The 2017 State of the City report utilizing the 2015 American Community Survey found about 56.5 percent of the population to be white.  That would suggest current totals somewhere between 52 and 55 percent to be reasonable.

However, looking at the voter data, it shows the registration at 77.4 percent white.  That’s a difference of 21 points.  Given distributions in the city, that is sufficient to make some precincts, at least in actual population, majority-minority precincts.

Hispanics represent 13.4 percent of the census population but just 10.6 percent of the voters.  Asians represents 21.7 percent of the population while they are just 9.8 percent of the voters.

All told then, Asians and Hispanics go from 35.1 percent of the census population to 20.4 percent of the voters.

No one seems aware of this data, let alone has an explanation for it.  One possibility is that the Asian population is largely students who live here, show up on the census, but do not register to vote.  Another possibility is that there is a relatively large base of Asians who are either not citizens or not registered.

It seems like that would be something the city should want to learn more about because it is causing people of color to be inadvertently underrepresented in government.

All of this is largely noise at this point in terms of the district election issue.  But there are real questions here that lead to policy decisions.

The staff report points out the question about Communities of Interest – “cohesive groups of people that live in a geographically definable area and should be considered as a potential voting bloc in current or future elections.”

Some of these are “protected classes” that have rights through civil rights and voting rights laws.  This includes Latino, Asian and African American people.

Others “can also be considered in districting, but don’t have the higher legal requirements as ethnic or racial minorities. Identifying these other COI are still critical to the process.”

There could be “clusters of senior citizens in one community, a group of college students living in a densely populated area near a campus, people who live in the downtown area or a specific neighborhood, or even people who share concerns such as parents with young children, bicycle enthusiasts, topic interest group, etc.”

A critical question is not just where the boundaries are drawn, but also how many districts we have.  The more districts we have, the smaller the boundaries are, the more likely smaller groups will find representation on the council.

As I have noted previously, draw five districts and the chances of a minority-majority district is somewhat remote.  We do see in the data however, that even smaller changes in composition impact races.  For instance, when the Hispanic percentage in the district is just 4 percent, Dan Carson had an electoral advantage over Gloria Partida, but as we moved to 20 percent Hispanic, Gloria Partida had a huge advantage over Dan Carson.

And that’s just moving from 4 to 20 – nowhere near a majority.  Drawing seven districts would make it more likely that you could have an area that is 40 percent or higher minority.  In a multi-person race, that could be sufficient to create minority representatives.

Or you could have an area around campus that is largely student voters and generate a student district.

It is still not clear why the decision was made by Matt Rexroad and the College Republicans to do this, but since we are here, we have some very interesting choices to make.

—-David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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26 thoughts on “Commentary: What Will Be the Impact of District Elections?”

  1. Tia Will

    “It seems like that would be something the city should want to learn more about because it is causing people of color to be inadvertently underrepresented in government.”

    I am confused about this point given that you yourself pointed out that at least in the case of Asians, the difference in census data and voting data may be due to the inability of many to vote based on citizenship. If that point is correct, they would, in fact not be underrepresented.

     

    1. Eric Gelber

      This raises an interesting point. In fact, elected officials represent everyone in their district, not just eligible voters. So, should non-citizens be taken into account in drawing district boundaries?

      1. Bill Marshall

        You raise an interesting point… who represents minor children?  They generally are citizens, but not eligible to vote.

        Would you suggest an adult non-citizen (legally or illegally present) should be more represented than a minor child who may well be a citizen?

        Perhaps we should make sure convicted felons, on parole or off are considered as well as to representation.. (see other of today’s threads)

      2. Rik Keller

        Eric: that is a very interesting point. Keep in mind also the Census counts are based on residency, not citizenship. ( This applicable on the national scene as the prep for the next decennial count commences). Funding formulas for districts are based on these Census residency counts too.

         

      3. Alan Miller

        Perhaps we should draw a district in the shape of the railroad right-of-way, the two Putah Creek channels, the City parks and trail system, the edges of the freeways, the drainage canals, and the entrances to downtown businesses, so as to draw our City a homeless/vagrant/heroin-addict district with their own representative.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Add (under the) overcrossings [near abutments]… Covell, Mace, Pole Line (oops, that would screw up the district David proposed!), etc.

          We’ll need to assign addresses to those spots, so we can get them registered, and then ‘get out the vote!’

          But as to Putah Creek… not sure Nishi has been fully annexed to the City, and much of the other stretch is half in the County, be it Yolo or Solano.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      My point here is that we don’t why the discrepancy is occurring. I guessed at possible causes. And then we need to be aware that there may be a percentage of people who are not registered, but are still represented.

      1. Bill Marshall

        But folk are not appropriately represented unless their rep is ‘same’ as them, right?  That seems to be a recurrent sub-theme… students can not be appropriately represented by a non-student, etc.  The only way to ensure representation is to look at the dais… not what the CC actually does.

        1. Eric Gelber

          The only way to ensure representation is to look at the dais …

          No, it’s not the only way, but it is an important way.  Denigration of the idea that decision-making bodies should reflect the affected communities was the rationale given historically for justifying legislative bodies, corporate management and boards of directors, the judiciary, etc. being comprised overwhelmingly by white males.

        2. Bill Marshall

          So Eric, do you believe that no white hetero male can effectively represent POC’s, women and/or LGBT++ folk? I disagree with that premise, big time, but you’re surely entitled to your views, however narrow they may be.

          Some folk can actually effectively represent folk much different than they are.  But that’s not reality, right? Gets to inherent/unconscious bias…

        3. Eric Gelber

          So Eric, do you believe that no white hetero male can effectively represent POC’s, women and/or LGBT++ folk?

          I didn’t say anything like that. I said it’s important to diversify the representation on decision and policy-making bodies so that they better reflect the communities they impact. And before you inevitably proceed down the slippery slope fallacy—No, I am not suggesting that every decision or policy-making body must include representatives of every conceivable interest group.

           

  2. Bill Marshall

    The impact will be determined mainly by how much gerrymandering comes to pass…

    Ironic how “progressives” condemn gerrymandering in the South, done to minimize POC electeds, but tend to embrace the same gerrymandering to increase POC electeds.

    Certainly, no white hetero male is capable of representing, effectively, any constituents who are POC, female, and/or LGBT++.  Unconscious/inherent bias, all that stuff.  An assumption that appears more than a tad bigoted.

    Whatever… we’ll see how this plays out… I suspect it will play out in a manner that will at least ‘protect’ the three folk whose terms are ending… it certainly has so far, in moving the CC election to Nov… a guaranteed 5-6 month extension of their terms.  Not making the other two stand for election in November, for a new 2 year term, seems to fly in the face of the ‘prime directive’… district elections.  If not, there will be a 2 year period with 2 CC members elected at large, 3 by districts… think Venn diagram… all districts will be equal as to representation, but some will be more equal than others.

    And, we now see a candidate for Co Supervisor, from Davis… challenging the incumbent, who may or may not run… but the announcement was not based on policies/legislative matters, but on…

    Time will tell.  Tonight should be an interesting initial public hearing/discussion…

     

  3. Laurie Rollins

    We are a transient population.  Students & senior citizens frequently remain voters in their “home” districts rather than registering here.  I suspect the disparity between registered and non-registered Asians is that many on the census count are not eligible to vote.  We don’t have that information from the census.

    1. Bill Marshall

      “We are a transient population. ”

      Yeah, am one of those ‘transients’…  only been here 45 of my 64 years… same for spouse… one adult child has lived in Davis 39 of 40 years… transient, to be sure.

      We, in a Zen sense, are all transient.

    2. Bill Marshall

      I suspect the disparity between registered and non-registered Asians is that many on the census count are not eligible to vote.  We don’t have that information from the census.

      Yes, on both counts.  At least in 2019.

      It is also true for much of CA… the time it takes to be ‘naturalized’ is significant. Also applies to Latinx in CA, perhaps in Davis…

  4. Alan Miller

    looking at the voter data, it shows the registration at 77.4 percent white . . . given distributions in the city, that is sufficient to make some precincts, at least in actual population, majority-minority precincts . . . when the Hispanic percentage in the district is just 4 percent, (X) had an electoral advantage over (Y), but as we moved to 20 percent Hispanic, (Y) had a huge advantage over (X) . . . Drawing seven districts would make it more likely that you could have an area that is 40 percent or higher minority . . . or you could have an area around campus that is largely student voters and generate a student district.

    ‘Where are the Hispanics in this City?’ — D. Vanguard

    ‘Where are the blacks in this City?’ — D. Vanguard

    ‘Where are the students in this City?’ — D. Vanguard

    ‘Where are the Asians in this City?’ — D. Vanguard

    * ‘Wo leben die Juden in dieser Stadt?’  — A. Hitler

    No, I’m not suggesting the Davis Vanguard is Hitler (reductio ad Hitlerum), but this obsession with finding, categorizing and manipulating a “reward”** by race/type  to be highly disturbing to say the least.

    * ‘Where are the Jews in this City?’

    ** “YOU get a City Councilmember! — and YOU get a Councilmember  — and YOU get a City Councilmember!”

  5. Alan Miller

    It’s going to be fascinating tonight watching City councilmembers and members of the public trip all over themselves to state, “I’ve seen a whole bunch of  ‘dem-type-O-people living out yonder by the Circle-K, and I swear I seen clowns lurking on the edge of the woods, I think maybe there be a clown-people community-of–interest in ‘dem woods.”

    1. Bill Marshall

      Sidebar… presenter from consultant was awesome… no exceptions taken from Paul Mitchell’s presentation … will still need to see how public and CC ‘twerk’ this… and or “tweak” this…

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